Accuracy in Media

Court decisions have gone back and forth on the matter of whether the government will be able to ask on every census form whether respondents are U.S. citizens, but the narrative of the media has not.

According to the media, the purpose of adding the question is not to determine how to distribute benefits or where help for immigrants is most needed in the country. It is to diminish turnout among liberal voters and provide more safe seats for Republican congressional candidates.

Stories about a recent development in the case – one lower-court judge said he may try to block the question even if the Supreme Court, as expected, rules later this week it is permissible to review evidence from the purloined computer files of a dead Republican consultant that a census citizenship question would strengthen the votes of non-Hispanic whites – make clear the pattern.

“A federal appeals court said Tuesday that a Maryland judge should examine new allegations that the Trump administration had a discriminatory intent in adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, on the eve of a possible Supreme Court decision on the matter,” wrote Robert Barnes, Felicia Somnez and Tara Bahrampour of the Washington Post under the headline, “As Supreme Court decision nears, lower court orders new look at census citizenship question.”

“Critics, even in the Census Bureau, say the question could cause an undercount of millions of people who would be afraid to return the form.”

The Post says the House Oversight and Reform Committee released a report that said James Uthmeier, a former senior adviser and counsel to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, “disclosed that Secretary Ross directed him to begin examining the citizenship question within weeks of being sworn in as secretary and that they had multiple conversations about it well before any request came from [the Department of Justice].”

But the commerce department and lawyers for Uthmeier said the comments were misrepresented in the committee’s report. Rep. Eugene Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the committee, three times with no response. The committee released transcripts of interviews with four people on the matter, but only Uthmeier’s was quoted in the Post or mentioned in the report.

Slate was less subtle. “The Supreme Court is set to rule on the Trump administration’s addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census as soon as Wednesday,” wrote Mark Joseph Stern in “Appeals Court Says The Census Case Is Not Over – Even if SCOTUS Upholds the Citizenship Question.”

“But if the five conservative justices uphold the citizenship question, as appeared the likely outcome following oral arguments, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that a judge may block the question again over new evidence that further proves the question’s illegality.”

Stern went on to write that the dead consultant had “worked with” Justice Department officials “to devise a pretextual justification for the census citizenship question, asserting that it would aid enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.” It could, Stern explained, “substantially reduce the voting power of Democrats and Hispanics while boosting that of Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.”

Stern did not ask why asking a citizenship question would boost the political standing of Republicans and non-Hispanic whites at the expense of Democrats. He did label the excuse he claimed the consultant devised a “false justification.”

“Plaintiffs argued that this evidence ties” the consultant’s work, “which lays out the racist impact of a citizenship question, directly to the Trump administration. By doing so, they claim, it proves the question is motivated by unlawful animus.”

He then provided quotes from the Obama-appointed judge seeking to keep the case alive. The so-called new evidence “potentially connects the dots between a discriminatory purpose – diluting Hispanics’ political power – and Secretary Ross’ decision.”

He failed to point out the only way it would dilute Hispanics’ political power is if non-citizens were voting, which is illegal in federal elections.

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