President Donald Trump is reportedly planning to use an executive order on Thursday to bypass an ongoing legal battle and add a citizenship question to the U.S. Census.
What's the background?
In March 2018, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that the 2020 Census would include a question asking about the citizenship status of every respondent. The state of California promptly sued to block it, and the Trump administration has been locked in a legal battle over this issue ever since.
On June 27, the Supreme Court ruled that the addition of such a question on the census was constitutional, but left it to the lower courts to determine if the Trump administration's reasons for adding the question were legitimate.
On July 3, the lawyers with the Department of Justice and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that it was too late to win the legal battle and still print the census at that point, so the census would move forward without the question. However, later the same day Trump contradicted his administration, saying in a tweet that the government was "absolutely moving forward" on adding the question and that reports to the contrary were "FAKE!"
Why is this so important?
The U.S. census, which occurs once every ten years, is used to determine the number of seats that each state gets in the House of Representatives. Since the number of electoral votes each state gets is equal to the number of representatives and senators it sends to Congress, changes in the census can also have significant impacts on presidential elections.
What happened now?
According to an unnamed White House official who talked to NBC News and multiple unnamed officials who talked to CNN, Trump will announce on Thursday that he plans to force the question onto the census via executive action.
This seemed to agree with a tweet Trump sent on Thursday morning announcing that after a social media summit at the White House "we will all go to the beautiful Rose Garden for a News Conference on the Census and Citizenship."
Trump floated the idea of using an executive order when he was speaking to the press on July 5. "We're thinking about doing that, it's one of the ways," he said, according to the Hill. He suggested that the government "could start the printing now and maybe do an addendum after we get a positive decision."
According to CNN, an official with the Census Bureau had said that adding the question after June would require "exceptional resources."