By statute, the president is due to send Congress a report in early January with the population of each of the states and their entitled number of House districts.
Once states are allocated their districts, they themselves draw the boundaries for the districts, which will be used first in the 2022 congressional elections. The number of House seats for each state also determines how many votes that state gets in the Electoral College, the system used to determine the winner of presidential elections. In a close election, one or two electoral votes could swing the outcome.
The census itself does not gather data on a person’s citizenship or immigration status. Trump’s administration would base its numbers on data gathered elsewhere. The U.S. Census Bureau, a spokesman said, “will make public the methods used to provide state-level counts once we have them finalized.”
Thomas Wolf, a lawyer at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, said it is not yet clear if the administration will even be able to come up with usable numbers.
“This is not the way a transparent constitutional democracy is supposed to be run,” Wolf added.
Ilya Somin, a professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School in Virginia who filed a brief opposing Trump, said although the challengers have a strong case, one wrinkle could be that some conservative justices embrace a broad view of presidential powers.
“We can’t be too definitive about what the justices will do with it,” Somin said.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)