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Can Trump Use an Executive Order to Add the Citizenship Question to the Census?

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Demonstrators rally at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on April 23rd, 2019, to protest the proposal to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

After a months-long legal battle over the addition of a “citizenship question” to the 2020 Census, the issue seemed to have finally reached a conclusion last week: The Supreme Court issued a soft-block of the question, explaining that the administration’s justification for its addition was “contrived.” Lawyers within the Trump administration conceded. The printers began to run, and the census questionnaire is, as you read this, being printed without any questions about citizenship.

But President Donald Trump took the issue to Twitter. “We are absolutely moving forward,” he tweeted on Wednesday, declaring that his administration would continue its push to add the question. On Friday, Trump told reporters he was thinking of using an executive order to do so, and, later that same day, administration lawyers told a federal judge they would push forward on the question. 

How would that be possible? First, there’s the purely practical question of paper and ink: Creating the tens of millions of forms is a massive undertaking, and it has already begun. Asked how the additional question could be tacked on, Trump floated the idea of adding additional materials later on. 

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