The Atlantic

The Controversial Question DOJ Wants to Add to the U.S. Census

The Department of Justice requested that the bureau inquire about citizenship in the upcoming questionnaire, a move that experts argue could have a crippling effect on participation.
Source: Alex Wong / Getty

A recent request by the Department of Justice to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census could threaten participation, and as a consequence, affect the allocation of federal money and distribution of congressional seats.

In December, the Department of Justice sent a letter to the Census Bureau asking that it reinstate a question on citizenship to the 2020 census. “This data is critical to the Department’s enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and its important protections against racial discrimination in voting,” the department said in a letter. “To fully enforce those requirements, the Department needs a reliable calculation of the citizen voting-age population in localities where voting rights violations are alleged or suspected.” The request immediately met pushback from census experts, civil-rights advocates, and a handful of Democratic senators, who say that the argument is unfounded and that the timing of the request is irresponsible.

The census is used for allocating , electoral votes, as well as for the apportionment of House districts—that is, deciding how many representatives a state sends to Congress each year.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic2 min read
Free Solo Is Not a Life Lesson
Alex Honnold’s historic climb is too extraordinary to become a story of motivational-poster determination.
The Atlantic2 min read
The Hospital Is Too Damn Loud
When the musician Yoko Sen was hospitalized a few years ago, she could not help but hear the hospital’s many alarms as a musician. Consider a cardiac monitor that beeps in C, she says, along with a bed-fall alarm that emits a high-pitched whine. Toge
The Atlantic5 min read
The Real Meaning of Trump’s ‘She’s Not My Type’ Defense
The president, in attempting to downplay E. Jean Carroll’s rape allegation against him, isn’t talking about attraction. He’s talking about protection.