Commerce’s Ross says census question aimed at Voting Rights Act enforcement


U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testifies before a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on oversight of the Commerce Department, in Washington, U.S., March 14, 2019. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told lawmakers on Thursday that he exercised his authority to reinstate a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. census in order to obtain more accurate data to help enforce the Voting Rights Act.

In written testimony, Ross told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that he determined that this goal outweighed any reduction in census response rates that may result from the decision.

“Obtaining complete and accurate information for use in determining citizen age voting populations to enforce the Voting Rights Act is a legitimate government purpose. And I determined that the importance of that goal outweighed any potential decrease in self response rates that may result from people violating their legal duty to respond to the decennial census,” Ross said in his written remarks.

Several parties have brought lawsuits to prohibit the question from being asked by U.S. Census Bureau, which is part of the Commerce Department. The matter is under review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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