Republican attorney general nominee Erika Harold said Monday she opposes including a citizenship question on the 2020 census, splitting with both the Trump administration and Gov. Bruce Rauner.
In a delayed response to her Democratic opponent, state Sen. Kwame Raoul, who staked out a similar position last week, Harold argued it is too late to add the citizenship question because it was not tested in advance through the Census Bureau’s planning process.
“The Census Bureau therefore cannot meet the Constitutional burden of ensuring an accurate count of everyone in the United States — which is the census’s fundamental Constitutional purpose,” Harold said.
“While politicians on both sides of the aisle are attempting to convert this census debate into a political debate about immigration policy, the real legal issue is Congress’s Constitutional obligation to obtain an accurate count of everyone in the United States—regardless of citizenship status,” she added.
The Trump administration revealed last week that it intends to include a question about citizenship status on the census short form directed to all U.S. households, the first time the question has been directed to everyone since 1950.
Democrats immediately objected, arguing that asking about citizenship status will discourage some immigrants from participating in the census and result in an undercount — skewing both federal funding and electoral representation.
Raoul held a news conference Thursday to argue it is unconstitutional for census takers to inquire about citizenship and to praise state attorneys general including Illinois’ Lisa Madigan who have said they will file suit to block the question.
Harold offered no comment at that time.
Asked in a telephone interview Monday if she considered the matter important enough to file suit if she were attorney general, Harold said: “It’s certainly important enough to make sure the census is accurate.”
Harold said she does not know if some people would be afraid to participate in the census if they knew they would be asked about their citizenship.
“Because it wasn’t pre-tested, it’s unclear what effect it would have,” she said.
Harold’s position puts her at odds with Rauner, who donated $305,000 to her primary campaign and is expected to provide additional financial backing in the general election.
The governor’s office released a statement last week saying “Governor Rauner believes it is reasonable to collect accurate citizenship data for the census.”
Harold said that “as Attorney General, I would ensure that the federal government complied with the Constitution, and would be focused on protecting legal interests, not partisan interests.”