In a decision released Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump Administration had failed to provide adequate reasoning to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, sending the decision back down to a lower court.

In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the explanation given by Donald Trump‘s lawyers for the addition of the question “appears to have been contrived.” According to Roberts, the executive branch must “offer genuine justifications for important decisions, reasons that can be scrutinized by courts and the interested public. Accepting contrived reasons would defeat the purpose of the enterprise. If judicial review is to be more than an empty ritual, it must demand something better than the explanation offered for the action taken in this case.”

The decision blocked the inclusion of the question for now but ultimately left the final decision up to a lower court. If the administration provides an explanation that judges find to be adequate, then the question could be included in the 2020 Census. The window of time for that to occur is quickly closing, as the government must begin printing the Censuses soon if they are to distribute them on time next year.

Trump commented on the decision via Twitter, calling it “totally ridiculous.” He also wrote that he has “asked the lawyers if they can delay the Census, no matter how long, until the United States Supreme Court is given additional information.”


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Liberal activists have been protesting this inclusion ever since it was announced by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. While Republicans argue that there’s nothing wrong with asking if respondents are citizens, evidence points to the GOP having ulterior motives for the move. Documents found on the hard drive of a deceased Republican strategist outlined how including a citizenship question on the Census would drive down the number of immigrant respondents, and since immigrants largely live in urban areas the population of those areas would be artificially suppressed. Such a strategy would give Democratic cities less representation and funding than is appropriate for their population, strengthening less populated Republican bastions until the 2030 Census.

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