2 versions of census prepared, with and without citizenship question

It sounds like a small change, in a survey many people forget about minutes after they take it. But the Trump administration's plan to put a citizenship question back on the US census is a big deal.

The Census Bureau said Monday that it has prepared two versions of the paper and electronic survey for next year: one including the citizenship question and one without it.

The government is awaiting a Supreme Court ruling expected in early summer on the validity of the controversial question. Two federal judges have ruled the citizenship question must be removed from the 2020 census and chastised Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for adding it improperly.

“We have film that will be prepared for our printer for either decision that they make,” Associate Census Director Al Fontenot told reporters.

“For our electronic side of the Census, we have a plan where we have a switch that says answer the question, ask the question, don’t ask the question,” Fontenot said. “Already budgeted, already completed the work necessary to answer either way the decision comes down.”

RELATED: Supreme Court agrees to take up 2020 census case

The case moved quickly to the high court in part because the government noted it faces a deadline for printing the paper forms that many people will use.

Fontenot clarified the government’s position on the deadline, following suggestions in court proceedings that the issue could remain unresolved as late as the fall, if Congress provided extra funding for the printing process.

“The print date is July 1 that we have planned with our printer, who is the contract printer,” he said. “It’s based on the time they need to go through all of the printing cycles, the labeling cycles necessary to print the number of forms that we need. And July 1 is their target date.”

He expressed confidence the ruling will come in time, because “the Supreme Court session ends the end of June.”

Census Director Steven Dillingham on Monday declined to comment on President Donald Trump’s tweet Monday morning that the census “would be meaningless and a waste” of money without the citizenship question.

Questions about citizenship have appeared on the main every-10-year census survey before, but in recent decades it has been included on a more detailed annual survey that goes only to a fraction of the American public.

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