Why the Trump administration abandoned its case on the 2020 Census

On Thursday, June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a Trump administration plan to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 Census. The administration has told courts that its rationale for adding the citizenship question was to better enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In their briefs to the court, administration lawyers had pointed out that the deadline to begin printing census forms was July 1.

Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by the court’s four liberals, ruled that the administration's sole stated rationale for adding the citizenship question “seems to have been contrived” and was “more of a distraction.” Under the Administrative Procedure Act, the federal government is required to explain its actions, and the Supreme Court ruled that this requirement hadn't been met.

Following that ruling, Trump tweeted that he had asked lawyers if they can delay the census until the Supreme Court is given information from which it can make a final decision on the question, leading supporters to believe that the fight was still on.

Yesterday, July 2, the Justice Department announced that a decision had been made to proceed with the printing of census forms, without the citizenship question. This announcement came to the great disappointment of those who were hoping for much more:

An article in the LA Times explained why that decision had to be made: While the administration was in principle free to try again, its lawyers would have been forced to contradict earlier statements made to justify their case. They would no longer be able to argue that they wanted to comply July 1 deadline, since further appeals would only push back printing census forms, and new rationales would contradict the claim that the administration was motivated by a desire to improve enforcement the Voting Rights Act.

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