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Supreme Court’s conservatives seem fine with census citizenship question

In this Jan. 24, 2019, file photo, the Supreme Court is seen at sunset in Washington. Vast changes in America and technology have dramatically altered how the census is conducted. But the accuracy of the once-a-decade population count is at the heart of the Supreme Court case over the Trump administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The justices hear arguments in the case Tuesday, April 23. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority seems untroubled by the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

There appeared to be a clear divide between the court’s liberal and conservative justices in arguments Tuesday in a case that could affect how many seats states have in the House of Representatives and their share of federal dollars over the next 10 years.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh is the court’s newest member, an appointee of President Donald Trump. He suggested Congress could change the law to specifically bar a citizenship question if the legislative branch is so concerned that the accuracy of the once-a-decade population count will suffer.

Three federal courts have blocked the Commerce Department from adding the citizenship question. Those courts have ruled that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross violated federal law in the way he went about trying to include the question on the census for the first time since 1950. The courts found that millions of Hispanics and immigrants would go uncounted.

The lower court judges dismissed Ross’ contention that the question is needed to aid in the enforcement of the federal Voting Rights Act.

Liberal justices peppered the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer with questions as arguments got underway Tuesday. But they would lack the votes to stop the plan without support from at least one conservative justice.

The outcome could affect how many seats states have in the House of Representatives and their share of federal dollars over the next 10 years.