Justice Kagan filed a dramatic dissent in Rucho v. Common Cause, part of which I quote below:
“Of all times to abandon the Court’s duty to declare the law, this was not the one,” Kagan wrote, reading her blistering dissent from the bench Thursday, a move that generally indicates deep disagreement with the majority opinion. The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government. Part of the Court’s role in that system is to defend its foundations. None is more important than free and fair elections.”
The nuanced ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, noted that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s decision to add the citizenship question “was reasonable and reasonably explained,” despite the Census Bureau’s misgivings about the move. As recently as last week, bureau experts warned that adding the question would result in a significant undercount of households with at least one noncitizen member. Mr. Ross “determined that reinstating a citizenship question was worth the risk of a potentially lower response rate,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, because of “the long history of the citizenship question on the census.” Mr. Ross had argued that the question was needed to help the Justice Department better enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Later in the ruling, however, the Chief Justice wrote that the voting rights rationale offered by Mr. Ross depended on an “incongruent” explanation that wasn’t supported by proper evidence. “It is rare to review a record as extensive as the one before us when evaluating informal agency action — and it should be,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “But having done so for the sufficient reasons we have explained, we cannot ignore the disconnect between the decision made and the explanation given.”
Because the Administration will ultimately do whatever the president directs, it is not yet clear what the Administration's response to the decision will ultimately be. Perhaps, the Administration will try to come up with something that will satisfy the Court, and if it does, the federal government will be able to ask that citizenship question as part of the 2020 Census. That, in turn, as Chief Justice Roberts acknowledged, will lead to a very significant undercount of those non-citizens present in the United States at the time of the census. Many non-citizens, knowing that they would have to "out" themselves as undocumented by responding to the census questionnaire, will choose not to participate at all. Here's the final line from The Times' editorial:
The justices deserve credit for sending the case back for more thoughtful decision-making. After oral arguments in April, many court watchers expected that they would repeat the mistake of the court’s travel ban ruling and ignore the Trump administration’s evident bad faith. Fortunately, they were wiser this time around.