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Arizona elections chief opposes citizenship question on 2020 census

Katie Hobbs, Arizona's secretary of state-elect, has eight years of experience in the state Legislature. (AP Photo/Ryan VavVelzer)

PHOENIX — Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs opposed adding a question about citizenship status on the 2020 census, arguing that it could lead to lower participation rates.

Hobbs and nearly 200 other bipartisan officials filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, saying the proposed question would lead to an undercount.

The predicted undercount, the officials argued, would improperly allocate hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding from communities and reduce their access to programs and deprive them of public services.

“We rely on census data to make decisions that can deeply affect people’s lives, and adding a question about citizenship could jeopardize participation,” Hobbs said in a Tuesday statement.

“In a fast-growing place like Arizona, an accurate census count is vitally important to ensuring that we have the necessary federal resources available to honor our commitments to Arizonans.”

Hobbs is not the first official in Arizona to come out in opposition: Phoenix City Council voted last year to sue the federal government, arguing the question would result in an undercount.

The question was first proposed by the Trump administration last year. It would have been the first time a citizenship question was reinstated since 1950.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the question was necessary to help the government enforce the Voting Rights Act, a 1965 law meant to protect political representation of minority groups.

A federal judge in New York blocked the move in January, saying that even though it would be constitutional, Ross acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner and violated the law.

Among other things, the judge said Ross didn’t follow a law requiring Congress be given three years’ notice of plans to add a citizenship question to the census.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kelly Laco said in a statement at the time that it was reviewing the ruling.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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