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Why a Census question could have major implications for Minnesota

The state is at risk of losing a seat in Congress because of demography changes.

The Justice Department has requested that, for the first time since 1950, a citizenship question be included in the decennial Census.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross revealed the potential change on Monday, saying accurate citizenship data is necessary in the 2020 Census to help enforce the Voting Rights Act by targeting voting rights violations.

"I find that the need for accurate citizenship data and the limited burden that the reinstatement of the citizenship question would impose outweigh fears about a potentially lower response rate," he wrote in an eight-page memo.

The move has prompted criticism and lawsuits from at least a dozen states, who argue that the move would undermine the Census' aim to gain an accurate picture of the country's population.

That's because many non-citizens could be discouraged from answering the question and potentially not return the Census – which is a crime – for fear of how that information could be used.

This is in spite of strict privacy protections in place on Census data, which states it can only be used for statistical purposes.

Possible impact on Minnesota

Should fewer non-citizens return a Census questionnaire, it could have a domino effect on states at the political level, given that Census data is used, among other things, to determine where seats are allocated in the House of Representatives. 

It would likely affect Democratic states the hardest, the Chicago Tribune reports, given they tend to have larger immigrant populations.

And one of those could be Minnesota, with the state already at risk of seeing its congressional seats reduced from 8 to 7, amid booming populations in other states.

The Star Tribune reports Minnesota's population growth has outpaced other Midwest states, but that massive increases in states like Texas and Florida threaten to take a seat away – and the 2020 Census will be crucial to that decision.

Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey is also concerned it could reduce the amount of federal funding designated to states and cities that could be used for housing initiatives or the efforts to fight the opioid epidemic.

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