Newly released emails from Trump administration officials show a desire to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census shortly after President Donald Trump took office.
The emails were released as part of a lawsuit filed by a group of state attorneys general who are challenging the addition of the question to the 2020 census.
One of the emails, dated April 2017, was from from Brooke Alexander, a senior adviser in the Commerce Department, to the wife of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
“Steve Bannon has asked that the Secretary talk to someone about the census,” Alexander wrote in the email. “He could do it from the car on the way to a dinner.”
The Commerce Department has said it is adding the citizenship question to the 2020 census at the request of the Justice Department to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.
Emails that followed show a flurry of activity, with officials trading emails over almost two years. Drafts of the question were sent around and tweaked, along with analysis from John M. Aboud, chief scientist and associate director for research and methodology in the Commerce Department. He recommended against adding the question, calling it “very costly” and suggesting it “harms the quality of the census count,” according to a letter dated January 19, 2018.
Meanwhile, the coalition that filed the lawsuit attempting to block the question gained one more member on Wednesday: the city of Phoenix.
Earlier this month, Southern District of New York Judge Jesse Furman allowed the lawsuit challenging the inclusion of the question to move forward.
Acting New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood called Furman’s decision at the time “a major win.”
“The federal government has a solemn obligation to ensure a fair and accurate count of all people in this country,” Underwood said in a statement. “By demanding the citizenship status of each resident, the Trump administration is breaking with decades of policy and potentially causing a major undercount that would threaten billions in federal funds and New York’s fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College.”