A request by the Justice Department to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census could shift the nation’s balance of political power from cities to more rural communities over the next decade and give Republicans a new advantage drawing electoral boundaries.
Population numbers produced by the census are used in many ways, notably to draw political districts and distribute government funds across the country. Adding questions to the decennial survey is usually a controversial and difficult process because of the potential to affect both of those functions — either by suppressing census participation or by creating new ways to define populations.
All of it has prompted advocates for Hispanic communities to accuse the Justice Department of wanting to produce a less accurate count in 2020.
“I think the main motivation is to secure an undercount,” said Tom Saenz, the president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. “Texas is a very red state. They know that is not going to be the case for very much longer.”
The citizenship question is a particularly fraught one because noncitizens, who may not vote, nonetheless are counted for the purposes of distributing federal funding, apportioning congressional seats and drawing district maps for state and local elections.