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Census Citizenship

New York Attorney General Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks Tuesday about a lawsuit arguing that a plan to add a citizenship demand to the census questionnaire is unconstitutional.

Associated Press

A plan to question people about their citizenship as part of the next U.S. census would undercut the rationale for taking a census in the first place, so we support those fighting to keep that question off the form.

The overriding goal of the every-10-years census is simple — to get an accurate as possible accounting of how many people live in the United States and track shifting populations. It's important because the figures are used to determine how seats in the House of Representatives are divvied up and where billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated.

The Trump administration has suggested that the 2020 census should specifically ask how many people in every household are U.S. citizens. It's clearly a politically motivated attempt to use the census as a tool targeting immigrants — and states that are more likely to vote Democratic.

New York is among 17 states that this week sued the U.S. government, arguing that adding a citizenship question to the census would be unconstitutional and would "fatally undermine the accuracy of the population count."

Asking about citizenship could cause real harm in states like New York with large immigrant populations. If people become fearful of participating in the census, the final count will reflect an inaccurately low population that could cause the state to lose representation in Washington as well as untold federal dollars.

The federal government needs to administer the next census in such a way as to gather accurate information about the population of the United States. And it needs to do so without adding politics to the mix.

The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Rob Forcey, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.

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