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Report: Citizenship question on census would cost Arizona a seat in House

PHOENIX – A question about citizenship would cost Arizona a congressional seat if it’s included in the 2020 census, according to a recent analysis.

A study first published in March by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy found that asking people if they are U.S. citizens would deter immigrants skeptical of the government’s motives from participating in the decennial count of people living in the country.

As a result, the study found, the question would cause an undercount of the Hispanic population by approximately 6 million people.

The Trump administration proposed adding the question, but it’s facing a legal challenge. The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to rule after hearing the case in April.

Based on the Shorenstein Center’s findings, the Washington Post broke down the impact by state and determined that Arizona’s population would be undercounted by 4.9 percent, highest in the nation, if the citizenship question is used.

“It would add to a severe undercount of the population in Arizona,” Democratic state Rep. Diego Espinoza told the newspaper in a story published last week.

“And I stress that, because for every person that is not counted, that is federal dollars that will not come to support Arizonans on a day-in-and-day-out basis.”

The census count is also the basis for House of Representatives seats — and votes in the presidential Electoral College — which are apportioned by total population, not just the number of citizens.

Arizona’s estimated undercount of 362,496 would erase the projected gain of a 10th House seat, the Post found.

California would incur the second-biggest undercount by percentage (4.6%) and lose two House seats, and Texas would also lose a seat, the paper determined.

The U.S. Census Bureau is preparing for either outcome from the Supreme Court.

Bureau officials said Tuesday they are beginning a test to see how people respond to the questionnaire depending on whether the citizenship question is included.

The bureau is sending the questionnaire to 480,000 U.S. homes.

Some randomly assigned households will have the citizenship question included, and some won’t have the question.

Bureau officials say the response rates will help them figure out how many census takers will be needed for either scenario.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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