Hot SheetImmigration

AG Coffman backs citizenship question in census

Author: Mark Harden - April 10, 2018 - Updated: April 10, 2018

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. (Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics – file)

Colorado state Attorney General Cynthia — Coffman in the thick of a race for governor — has announced her support for a controversial proposal to ask about U.S. citizenship in the 2020 census.

Controversial, because some fear that a citizenship question on the government’s once-every-decade national survey could discourage some immigrants from taking part in the census — possibly leading to under-counting the population of some areas of the nation.

The proposal to ask about citizenship by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, is being challenged in lawsuits by several states.

But Coffman, in a joint statement with two other state attorneys general Monday, said that “a lack of reliable citizenship data may dilute or distort the voices of eligible voters, as well as deprive both the federal government and the states of necessary information.”

She joined with Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry in announcing support for the citizenship question. All three are Republicans.

Coffman says this:

“The goal of the census is to produce as accurate a picture as possible of the makeup of our vast and diverse country so that all people that live within our borders can be appropriately represented. Colorado’s next redistricting and reapportionment will be based on its 2020 Census data. We need the most complete information possible to assure fair political representation of the entire state. In fact, it is so important to be able to obtain this information that federal law provides strong privacy protections for the information that is collected, which should help overcome any reluctance to participate.”

The three AGs say they “anticipate taking action to support the Secretary’s decision in litigation when the proper opportunity arises.”

Information gathered in the once-every-10-years census is used to draw congressional and state-legislative district boundaries and in determining how to distribute federal funds. By law, the census counts U.S. citizens and non-citizens.

Although the Census Bureau has long asked about citizenship in a variety of secondary surveys, the general set of census questions asked each 10 years of everyone dropped the citizenship question in 1960.

Some Democrats see the move as a ploy by the Trump administration to undermine the political power of states with large immigrant populations.

Coffman is one of 10 candidates for Colorado governor currently seeking spots on the Republican primary ballot. As Colorado Politics’ Ernest Luning reports in this week’s print edition, Coffman and other candidates will be seeking support from GOP delegates Saturday at the party’s state assembly in Boulder.

Mark Harden

Mark Harden

Mark Harden is managing editor of Colorado Politics. He previously was news director at the Denver Business Journal; city editor, online news editor, state editor, national editor and popular music critic at The Denver Post; and an editor and reporter at newspapers in the Seattle area and San Francisco.