New Leah Litman:
Beyond that rather glaring defect, however, the new executive order also confirms the theory behind the lawsuits challenging the administration’s earlier attempt to add a citizenship question to the census. When the administration attempted to do that, its lawyers made that preposterous claim that a citizenship question was necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act. It was not; citizenship information had never been collected on the census while the Voting Rights Act was on the books. What’s more, this administration has never attempted to enforce the Voting Rights Act. Civil rights groups argued that the citizenship question would open the door to allowing states to draw districts based on the number of voters, rather than total population, to dilute the political power of Democrats.
When it invalidated that effort to manipulate the census, the court stopped short of saying the administration was purposefully trying to dilute the voting power of Democrats and Latino voters. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who wrote the majority opinion, only went so far as to say the administration had not been straightforward about its true reasons for adding a citizenship question.
Now the new executive order underscores that collecting citizenship information was always about drawing districts on the basis of citizens, or total voters, to reduce Democratic voting power.