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MA AG Healey applauds court strike down of citizenship question for 2020 census



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BOSTON – Attorney General Maura Healey applauded today’s ruling from the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York vacating U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s last-minute addition of a widely-criticized citizenship question to the 2020 federal census.

“The people of Massachusetts deserve to be fully counted in the census – all of us,” AG Healey said. “Finding that U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross broke federal law and violated the public trust in an attempt to sabotage the accuracy of the census, the court’s decision to strike the citizenship question is a victory for all Americans and the rule of law.”

“As the Massachusetts 2020 Census liaison, it is my duty to ensure that every person in Massachusetts is counted,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin. “I look forward to continuing to work with Attorney General Healey on making sure that there will be a full and accurate count and that all Massachusetts residents are represented equally.”

AG Healey was part of a coalition of 18 attorneys general who sued Ross and the Department of Commerce in April 2018 over the addition of the question, arguing that it would have jeopardized the accuracy of the federal census, undercut Massachusetts residents and reduced federal funding to the state. Today’s ruling from the Court agreed with the attorneys general that adding a citizenship question to the census would result in a population undercount and would harm the states’ representation in Congress and their federal funding.

The attorneys general successfully argued that the Trump Administration failed to engage in required processes for adding questions to the Census, which typically take years to complete. The attorneys general emphasized that citizenship was not included in the list of topics for the 2020 Census submitted to Congress on March 28, 2017, and that the question has not undergone any field testing, a process which has typically taken years. The Court agreed with this argument finding that Secretary Ross violated the Administration Procedures Act in “multiple ways” listing a “veritable smorgasbord of classic, clear-cut APA violations.” The Court also concluded, again agreeing with the attorneys general, that Secretary Ross’s asserted reason for adding the question – that it was necessary to ensure proper enforcement of the 1965 Voting Rights Act – was pretextual.

AG Healey was part of a coalition of attorneys general who sent a letter to the U.S. Bureau of the Census in February 2018 and one to the Department of Commerce in August 2018, urging the agencies to stop the efforts to add the citizenship question from going forward.

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