By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday canceled arguments that had been scheduled for next month in an appeal by President Donald Trump’s administration relating to its contentious move to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census.
The administration had challenged the scope of evidence that U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan could use in considering his decision in a lawsuit filed by 18 U.S. states, 15 cities and various civil rights groups challenging the legality of the citizenship question.
The justices disclosed the cancellation of the Feb. 19 arguments in a notation on the court docket a day after the challengers, including New York state, filed court papers calling the administration’s appeal moot because Furman issued his final decision this week invalidating the census question.
Furman on Tuesday found that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the census, concealed the true motives for his “arbitrary and capricious” decision to add the question in violation of federal law. The Justice Department on Thursday said it would appeal Furman’s ruling and it could seek to fast-track the case to the high court.
Opponents have accused the Trump administration of devising a citizenship question to use the census to pursue the political objectives of Trump’s fellow Republicans by engineering an undercount of the true population and reducing the electoral representation of Democratic-leaning communities in Congress.
The challengers in the case said a citizenship question would frighten immigrants and Latinos into abstaining from the count. Trump has taken a hard line toward legal and illegal immigrants.
Ross has said the citizenship question was needed to provide data to better enforce the Voting Rights Act, which protects eligible voters from discrimination. Only American citizens can vote in federal elections.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)