Austin, Travis County leaders comment on SCOTUS Census ruling

Are you a “U.S. citizen?"  A question that may not make it into the 2020 Census because the Supreme Court didn't buy the Trump administration's explanation for wanting to ask it.

The President's camp may get a chance to explain further…but the Census forms are expected to hit the printing press next week. “We are cautiously optimistic in the SCOTUS ruling today.  Very happy that we are basically living to fight another day," said Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt.  

Eckhardt says it's important to count every single person in the U.S. every 10 years. "So that local, State and Federal agencies can appropriately invest to make sure that we've got the social infrastructure to support all these folks," Eckhardt said.  

City and county leaders like Judge Eckhardt have been encouraging people not to be afraid to take part. But if that citizenship question does end up on the Census, Eckhardt says the community as a whole needs to take a hard look at what the ramifications are. "I don't want to be unwittingly complicit in putting our Travis County families in harm's way," Eckhardt said.

"I think most Americans believe it's useful to know how many citizens we have across the country and so that apportionment for Congressional districts is based on citizens and not on non-citizens," said Travis County GOP Chairman Matt Mackowiak.

Mackowiak says the Supreme Court's decision is disappointing.

"I do think that one of the legitimate arguments made against it was the credible fear that some people would have in answering the question.  So I've said before I thought it was really important for the government to make clear that the Census was not going to be used for law enforcement purposes.  I think most people understand that but some people may not understand that," he said.

Mackowiak says you could argue there's politics on both sides.

"I believe there's been some fearmongering on the other side, trying to make it sound like this was racist, was going to lead to people going to jail.  It certainly wasn't.  The Census is not whether you're breaking the law or not, it's about finding out demographic information so we can understand how many people live in certain areas," Mackowiak said.

"Also when you consider the Supreme Court ruling with regard to gerrymandering, redistricting, that really suppresses our vote count which makes it all the more important that our Census count is accurate," Eckhardt said.