Important Joey Fishkin at Balkinization:
The Commerce Department has announced that it is adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census, for the first time in seventy years. There has been a lot of speculation about possible political motivations for this action. It is difficult to know exactly what motivates government actors whose deliberations are not public. But it is possible to know one thing: the government’s sole stated reason for adding the question—improving enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA)—is false. It is not the real reason.
“Lying” is a strong word. Many falsehoods are based on mistakes, confusion, carelessness, wishful thinking, and so on. But today’s situation puts me in mind of an evidentiary pattern that arises constantly in employment discrimination law: The plaintiff thinks something nefarious has occurred, but has no direct proof; the defendant offers a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the disputed action; all the plaintiff can prove is that the proffered reason is false. It’s then, ordinarily, up to the jury to sort out what really happened. But the fact that the defendant offered up a reason that was definitely false is significant. It raises a potential (contestable) inference that it may have been a lie, covering up something the defendant could not admit.
My sole aim in this post is to explain why the government’s stated reason for adding the citizenship question is false. To understand this, you need to understand something about the role Census data plays in redistricting. It plays two completely different roles….