Groups Say US Census Citizenship Question Was Designed to Influence Elections

Last updated 5/31/2019 at 11:21 a.m. ET.

The Trump administration concealed evidence that its proposal to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 U.S. census was intended to help Republicans draw favorable electoral maps, according to immigrant advocacy groups that sued the administration over the question last year.

In a filing in Manhattan federal court on Thursday, the groups said that the administration hid the fact during the course of the lawsuit that went to trial last year that Thomas Hofeller, a longtime Republican specialist on drawing electoral districts, played a “significant role” in planning the citizenship question.

The conservative-majority Supreme Court is due to issue a final ruling by the end of June on whether the question can be added in time for next year’s census.

The challengers notified the high court about the new documents in a letter filed at the court on Thursday afternoon. They did not ask the Supreme Court to take any specific action.

The plaintiffs, which include the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee and Make The Road New York, learned of Hofeller’s role after his files came to light in separate litigation in North Carolina in which Republican-drawn electoral districts are being challenged.

A Justice Department representative said the allegations were a “last-ditch effort to derail the Supreme Court’s consideration of this case.”

“The Department looks forward to responding in greater detail to these baseless accusations in its filing on Monday,” the person said.

Manhattan-based U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman blocked the question’s inclusion following the trial, but the Supreme Court appeared poised to overturn that ruling at April’s oral argument.

According to Thursday’s filing, Hofeller concluded in a 2015 study that asking census respondents whether they are U.S. citizens “would clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites” in redistricting.

Hofeller went on to ghostwrite a draft letter from the U.S. Department of Justice to the Department of Commerce, asking for a citizenship question on the grounds it would help enforce voting rights, according to the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, said that administration officials gave false testimony about the origin of the question during the lawsuit, and have asked Furman to consider imposing unspecified sanctions against them.

Furman has scheduled a hearing on the request for June 5.

Reuters reported in April that the Trump administration believed its citizenship question could help Republicans in elections by enabling states to draw electoral maps based only on citizen population, rather than total population.

Opponents have said a citizenship question would cause a sizeable undercount by deterring immigrant households and Latinos from filling out the census forms, out of fear the information would be shared with law enforcement. That would, they argue, cost Democratic-leaning areas electoral representation in Congress and federal aid, benefiting President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans and Republican-leaning parts of the country.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson and Andrew Chung in New York; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley in Washington; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Tom Brown and Lisa Shumaker)


  1. I am confused by the majority of comments below.

    Do you actually believe in the Constitution or not? The Constitution is very specific about who is to be counted:

    Section 2 of the 14th Amendment states: “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, COUNTING THE WHOLE NUMBER OF PERSONS IN EACH STATE, excluding Indians not taxed.”

    Now, aside of the point about “Indians”, the founding fathers clearly wanted us to know how many PEOPLE existed in the country, NOT how many citizens. The problem, as you all seem to be keenly aware, is that adding a citizenship question will decrease the accuracy of the count and that is why you want it included.

    1. Just why do you think the line about Indians was included? Why do you think the 14th Amendment is all about citizenry? Why don’t you read the 14th in it’s entirety instead of cherry-picking a line and then spinning it?

      1. Just WHAT do you think the last sentence in Section 2 says?

  2. Only citizens have the right to vote in federal elections, therefore, a block for citizen and a block for noncitizen is indeed appropriate for drawing electoral districts. Senators and House Representatives are elected by citizens to represent citizens, not visiting immigrants nor illegal invaders!

    1. Immigrants aren’t voting- stop believing the lies… many dead republicans on the other hand have been voting for years…there is actual proof to that, not fake news that has been tweeted out…

      1. Whereas the Democrat voters motto is ”Vote early and vote often”. And the number of registered Democrats that vote early and often while dead outnumbers any dead Republicans that may not have been removed from the voter roles due to ineptitude of the voting polls being updated often enough.

  3. I think only legal citizens should be counted. All the illegal aiens should not be counted PERIOD.

  4. There has been citizenship questions on the American Community Survey for over a decade. We have a right to know how many non-citizens are living in the country, using schools, hospitals, highways and other public resources. We also have a right to know how many refuse to learn English, increasing the cost to taxpayers of certain public programs


  6. I don’t give a rat’s patootie who’s behind the question. I’m sick of anyone being counted other then AMERICAN CITIZENS for representation in the number of house seats! Dems have used this little trick for decades to gain seats. COUNT AMERICANS ONLY!!!

  7. The only people that should be counted are Americans for the purpose of elections, funding, etc. Illegals should be counted only to keep track of the invaders to determine where best to round them up for deportation.

  8. What is the purpose of a census if not to gather facts?

  9. “its proposal to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 U.S. census was intended to help Republicans draw favorable electoral maps, according to immigrant advocacy groups”

    Now that is sure a biased view of things, which is not surprising given the source.

    The fact is electoral maps and districting is to be based on the number of citizens. So an unbiased view of this would state that the question is necessary in order to follow the law and have fair electoral maps and districts.

  10. It will be interesting to compare counted citizens against published voter roles.

  11. This is proper in my mind – Democrats would love to count illegals and even allow them to vote. However, the electoral maps should be based on the current law and that legal standard says “only US citizens can vote”. Therefore the electoral maps can only be properly established on the basis of census counts of US citizens.

    1. Just think how many people are in the house of representatives right now because of the 22 million illegal aliens in this country! Of course democrats don’t want an accurate count of how many people are here illegally! My guess, it would be democrats that would lose seats if all of those illegals were not considered when counting people living in a district!

  12. It’s a sad commentary when there is controversy surrounding a census that counts the number of citizens in the U.S.

  13. ** From the Article **
    Opponents have said a citizenship question would cause a sizeable undercount by deterring immigrant households and Latinos from filling out the census forms, out of fear that the information would be shared with law enforcement.

    As a Latina voter I find this statement and it’s repeated parroting by the media (all types) offensive beyond belief.

    1. The thing that really offends me is the conflating of illegal aliens and legal immigrants. They are not the same, so it is intellectually dishonest to talk like they are.

    2. That statement is sort of like the democrat talking point that voter ID laws would adversely affect minorities because apparently liberals feel they aren’t bright enough to get an ID. They never stop to consider that you need an ID to function in society but minorities can’t get ID…

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