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Minnesota joins suit to remove citizenship question from 2020 census

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Lori Swanson
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson addresses the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Convention in Duluth, Minn. in 2014.
Jim Mone | AP 2014

Updated: 2:42 p.m. | Posted: 12:00 p.m.

Minnesota is one of 17 states and seven cities that filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

The Census Bureau hasn't asked such a question since 1950. The lawsuit says asking about citizenship will deter immigrant communities from participating. And that would lead to an inaccurate count of the population.

The U.S. Justice Department had asked that such a question be included in 2020. It argued that it needs the information to enable better enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. But critics say that data is already available.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson said the census is used to establish congressional seats and distribution of an estimated $700 billion dollars per year in federal payments. An undercount would significantly affect the funding.

The lawsuit cites earlier instances when the Census Bureau weighed in on immigration and citizenship questions. In 1980, the bureau argued that an immigration question would jeopardize accuracy of the population count. In 2009, three decades' worth of former Census Bureau directors of both parties objected to a congressional proposal to add citizenship and immigration questions to the 2010 census.