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Attorney General of Virginia

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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219


For media inquiries only, contact:  
Michael Kelly, Director of Communications
Phone: (804)786-5874 
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


~ Court agrees with Herring and fellow attorneys general that Administration is lying about its rationale for including a citizenship inquiry ~

RICHMOND (June 27, 2019) – In a win for Attorney General Mark R. Herring and his fellow state attorneys general, the U.S. Supreme Court has blocked the Trump Administration’s attempts to sabotage the census with a poison pill citizenship inquiry designed to suppress response rates. Attorney General Herring and his colleagues sued the Department of Commerce in April 2018 to protect the census, and successfully argued that the Trump Administration was not being honest about its motivations for including the citizenship question.


The Supreme Court found that the Trump Administration’s rationale for including the question “was more of a distraction” that “seems to have been contrived,” and that inclusion of the question “cannot be adequately explained” by the Trump Administration’s claims. The Court found “a significant mismatch between the decision the [Commerce] Secretary made and the rationale he provided.”


“The Trump Administration was trying to intentionally sabotage the census with a poison pill provision that its own Census Bureau admits would reduce response rates and lead to an inaccurate counting,” said Attorney General Herring. “Fortunately, the Court saw through the Administration’s cover story and has, for now, protected the accuracy of the census. I hope the Trump Administration will put an end to this misguided effort, rather than conjure up another contrived reason for its actions.


“The Trump Administration’s motivations are obvious: it wants to undercount communities it doesn’t like. A federal judge in Maryland said earlier this week that ‘it is becoming difficult to avoid seeing that which is increasingly clear’ after he recently unearthed evidence revealed that a Republican operative pushed the citizenship inquiry as ‘a disadvantage to Democrats’ and ‘advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.’


“The census isn’t just some small thing the government does every ten years. It will affect legislative districts at the state and federal level, healthcare and transportation funding, and so much more. This ruling protects the census for now, though future proceedings appear likely. We will continue to fight to protect the accuracy of the census, and to ensure courts see the evidence that makes the administration’s true motives clear.”


Today’s decision came after Attorney General Herring and his colleagues filed a lawsuit in April 2018 to block the Trump Administration from undermining the 2020 decennial Census with a “poison pill” citizenship question that the U.S. Census Bureau said would likely depress response and compromise the accuracy of the census. The lawsuit emphasized the irreparable harm that would result from inaccuracies in the 2020 Census. Hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds are directly tied to demographic information obtained through the census, including the Highway Trust Fund and other Department of Transportation grants, Child Care Development Grants, and Medicaid. Consequently, inaccurate counts can potentially deprive states of much-needed funds designed to protect low-income and vulnerable communities.


Additionally, the coalition filed official comments in August 2018 urging the Census Bureau to reconsider its decision to include an unnecessary citizenship question that would impair the Bureau’s essential function of counting all people in the 2020 census. The comments explained that demanding citizenship information on the Census would depress response rates in cities and states with large immigrant populations, directly threatening those states’ fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College, as well as billions of dollars in critical federal funds.


A total of $700 billion is distributed annually to nearly 300 different census-guided federal grant and funding programs. In FY2015, Virginia received over $953 million in Highway Trust Fund grants, over $131 million in Urbanized Area Formula Grants, and nearly $64 million in Child Care Development grants, all based on census data.


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