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U.S. House report: Trump administration added census citizenship question for political gain

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A new report from the House oversight committee says the Trump administration's efforts to add a citizenship question to the decennial census in 2020 was to help Republicans win elections. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
A new report from the House oversight committee says the Trump administration's efforts to add a citizenship question to the decennial census in 2020 was to help Republicans win elections. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

July 20 (UPI) -- New documents, released by the House oversight committee Wednesday, show former President Donald Trump's administration hid its true intent for adding a citizenship question to the decennial census that determines how the U.S. House of Representatives' 435 seats are divided among states.

The documents reveal the Trump administration's public reason to add the citizenship question in 2020, to protect people's voting rights, was false, according to members of the committee.

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The internal memos and emails show the administration's actual intention was to help Republicans win elections, the House committee report concluded.

The documents' release Wednesday follows a two-year legal battle that began after Trump officials refused to turn them over for a congressional investigation. The Biden administration, which assumed the lawsuit, agreed to allow the committee to conduct a review.

RELATED Census data reveals growth in racial, ethnic diversity in U.S.

"For years, the Trump administration delayed and obstructed the oversight committee's investigation into the true reason for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, even after the Supreme Court ruled the administration's efforts were illegal," Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who chairs the committee, said in a press release.

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Former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in congressional testimony that the administration wanted to add the questions because it needed more accurate data on citizenship to enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The question -- "Is this person a citizen of the United States?" -- did not end up on the 2020 census forms, after the Supreme Court ruled the administration's use of the Voting Rights Act as justification "seems to have been contrived," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.

RELATED Trump orders ban on counting undocumented immigrants for House apportionment

The U.S. Constitution says House seats shall be apportioned based on "the whole Number of free Persons." Excluding non-citizens from the census count could have cost California, Texas and Florida congressional seats, the report notes.

Included in the documents is a 2017 email from James Uthmeier, a commerce department attorney, who tried to push the Justice Department to add the question.

"Ultimately, everyone is in agreement with our approach to move slowly, carefully and deliberately so as to not expose us to litigation risk," Uthmeier wrote in the email, according to the report.

RELATED House panel sues for Trump records on census citizenship question

A revised memo said "there are bases for legal arguments that the Founding Fathers intended for the apportionment count to be based on legal inhabitants."

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Kris Kobach, Kansas' former secretary of state, also advocated for adding a citizenship question.

"There are about 710,000 people in each congressional district. But, if half of the district is made up of illegal aliens, then there are only 355,000 citizens in the district. The value of each citizen's vote in such a district is twice as high. That is unfair," Kobach wrote in a 2018 op-ed in Breitbart News.

Maloney is calling for new legislative reforms to prevent future "unconstitutional efforts to interfere with the census."

"Today's committee memo pulls back the curtain on this shameful conduct and shows clearly how the Trump administration secretly tried to manipulate the census for political gain while lying to the public and Congress about their goals," she said.

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