ACLU Already Gearing Up to Fight Trump’s Executive Order on Census

Trump Executive Order Census

Update 3:38 PM 7/11/2019: Donald Trump has reportedly decided not to pursue an executive order regarding the question of citizenship on the 2020 census. He is instead planning to use his executive order to ask the Commerce Department to ask Americans if they are citizens through other means. This comes after Senator Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) declared that Trump missed the deadline on changing the census.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a citizenship question from being added to the 2020 Census. Now, President Donald Trump is expected to announce an executive action this Thursday to address this point. The move could impact the balance of power in the House of Representatives, as states use the population as a metric to determine both the number of representatives and electoral votes a state has. Critics also remark that this question could leave many minorities uncounted and that it has the potential to scare off many legal citizens from filling out the questionnaire. This could have a marked effect on policy, as the census is often used as a means of calculating funding for different government services.

Following the Supreme Court decision, Trump’s team weighed their options, eventually abandoning their original stance to print the census without the citizenship question. Unfortunately for taxpayers, since the printing didn’t take place by July 1st (government attorneys insisted on this date as a deadline) the census will cost the federal government more money.  Trump instead ordered officials to find another way to add the question. White House and DOJ officials spent the entire Independence Day weekend trying to find a way to force the question onto the census.

Now, despite several legal experts asserting he lacks a constitutional basis for this push, it seems Trump has decided to try and get the question added via executive order. Standing in his way, however, are both the Democratic party and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

As a means of contesting the question, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has confirmed that the House of Representatives will vote next week on criminal contempt for Attorney General Anthony Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross due to their refusal to answer questions regarding internal discussions of the citizenship question.

“Next week the full house will vote on a resolution of criminal contempt for Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross so we can enforce our subpoenas and get the facts,” Pelosi said.

Still, when asked about whether Trump’s constitutional authority extended this far, Pelosi responded: “I don’t know.”

The ACLU’s response has been equally robust, with Dale Ho, the head of the ACLU’s Voting Right Project saying, “If President Trump takes executive action, we will take legal action.”

Ho also told MSNBC, “We have a pending motion in the lawsuit we filed to permanently prevent the administration from adding a citizenship question based on their repeated representations that June 30th was the, quote, drop-dead date for changes to the census questionnaire. So that motion is going to be heard in federal court in about a week and a half. There’s pending proceedings in the federal court in Maryland about whether or not this attempt by the administration was motivated by a desire to weaken the political influence of Hispanic communities. Yes, I think if the administration does, in fact, come forward with a new decision, Trump adding a citizenship question you’ll see more action by the ACLU.”

The ACLU and its lawyers convinced a judge to reopen the case in Maryland after further examining documents from a deceased Republican redistricting consultant named Thomas Hofeller. More specifically they unearthed a 2015 study written by Hofeller that claimed using “citizen voting age” population as the redistricting population base would be “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”

The Trump Administration has always denied political motivation and couched their actions with the Justice Department’s desire for compliance with federal voting laws. Judge George Hazel of the US District Court in Maryland disagreed with the government’s arguments that Hofeller’s study was irrelevant. A hearing on this new evidence is scheduled for after Labor Day weekend.

Outside of the moral and political arguments, government officials are still left with questions regarding logistics and associated printing costs. Two possibilities, outlined by CNN, are that they’ll simply reprint all the forms or print out an additional page. On this point, the Census Bureau has already set forth a motion asking  Judge Jesse Furman in New York to prohibit the Trump Administration from changing the census. During a trial last year, a census official said the form could be finalized after June and as late as October, but only if “exceptional resources” were made available.

As it is, legal maneuvering in the two courts is expected to last throughout the entire summer.

Watch Donald Trump’s press conference below:

 

[Photo via NBC News Screenshot]

Matt is an Editor at Law & Crime and former Editor-in-Chief of Popdust

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