(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court said it will expand its scheduled showdown over the 2020 census to consider whether the Constitution lets the Trump administration add a question asking whether people are American citizens.
Agreeing to a government request, the court said it will broaden its April 23 argument to account for a new lower court ruling that said the Constitution bars the inclusion of a citizenship question.
The court has been planning to hear arguments on a narrower ruling in a different case. That decision, issued by U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in New York, said the Commerce Department hid its real reasons for adding the question, violating the federal law that governs administration agencies.
The latest ruling, issued this month by U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco, goes further. Seeborg said a citizenship question would lead to a less accurate count, violating the constitutional requirement of an "actual enumeration" of the population every 10 years.
A census undercount in areas with large numbers of non-citizens could shift congressional districts and federal dollars away from those communities.
In a letter to the Supreme Court this week, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco said the Trump administration plans to appeal Seeborg’s ruling, but he said the justices can resolve the constitutional issue as part of the New York dispute.
Francisco wrote that the court needs to decide the constitutional issue to "definitively resolve whether the secretary may reinstate a question about citizenship to the 2020 decennial census."
The New York case is Department of Commerce v. New York, 18-966.
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