Voting Rights Act Gutted By Supreme Court May Be Used To Slant Census
From the Supreme Court where, on Tuesday, the Nine Wise Souls heard the case of U.S. Department of Commerce v. New York, in which will be determined whether or not a citizenship question will be added to the 2020 census, the ever-essential Ari Berman in Mother Jones brings us news that does not spark joy.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, wrote in March 2018 that the citizenship question was needed for “more effective enforcement” of the VRA. The conservative justices seemed sympathetic to this claim, even though their 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder significantly weakened the law by neutering the requirement that states with a history of discrimination clear any voting changes with the federal government.
“Do you think it wouldn’t help voting rights enforcement?” Chief Justice John Roberts asked Barbara Underwood, the former New York attorney general, on Tuesday during oral arguments over a lawsuit brought by New York and 17 other states challenging the citizenship question. Roberts called the collection of citizenship data “a critical element” for the enforcement of voting rights cases. His question was echoed by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
There seems little question that adding this question would depress Democratic response to the Census in states like Arizona and Texas, which is, of course, the whole point.
From The New York Times:
Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that adding the question would do damage to the fundamental purpose of the census, which is to count everyone in the nation. “There is no doubt that people will respond less,” she said. “That has been proven in study after study.” By one government estimate, about 6.5 million people might not be counted...
The federal government has long gathered information about citizenship. But since 1950, it has not included a question about it in the census forms sent once a decade to each household. Adding it could reduce Democratic representation when congressional districts are allocated in 2021 and affect how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending are distributed. Courts have found that Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas could risk losing seats in the House, and that several states could lose federal money.
But it struck Berman, as it strikes anyone who can read and whose memory goes back beyond breakfast, that there simply is a brutal form of open hypocrisy for the Court's conservative majority, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, to uphold a voter-suppression device as a means of enforcing a voting-rights act that Roberts already has gutted, and that Roberts's entire career as a government lawyer was dedicated to destroying.
Christamighty, these people.
Just as significant, however, is the fact that adding this question will monkey-wrench future statewide elections, as well as future elections to the House of Representatives. That's the reason Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross arranged for this question to be added to the census in the first place—which was something that intrigued Justice Elena Kagan, who knows a bag-job when she sees one.
...just going back to Justice Kavanaugh's simple question about why the Secretary thought that there was a need for this data, and then part of what Justice Sotomayor was talking about was that it did really seem like the Secretary was shopping for a need. [Ross] goes to the Justice Department. Justice Department says we don't need anything. Goes to DHS. DHS says they don't need anything. Goes back to the Justice Department. Makes it clear that he's going to put in a call to the Attorney General. Finally, the Justice Department comes back to him and says:
Okay, we can give you what you want. So you can't read this record without sensing that this -- this need is a contrived one. Nobody had -- there have been lots of assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division that have never made a plea for this kind of data.
Date Posted: Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 , Total Page Views: 341