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New Jersey GOP back push to reshape Congress by excluding noncitizens

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(The Center Square) — New Jersey lawmakers are backing a push in Congress to exclude non-U.S. citizens from the census results that determine each states’ share of House of Representative seats.

A resolution filed by state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio, R-Montville, expresses support for the federal “Equal Representation Act,” which would modify the apportionment of House seats, as well as electoral college votes, to be based on the population of U.S. citizens.

“Appropriating representatives to Congress based on citizenship is the only formula that allows for accurate representation in our federal government,” Pennacchio said in a statement. “It is imperative that the right of each American citizen to receive equal representation in government is protected from dilution.”

More than 10 million people have illegally entered the United States under the tenure of President Joe Biden, Pennacchio said, which has bumped up the population of noncitizens to more than 30 million.

“The noncitizen population is so large that if they were all located in one state, it would be apportioned 40 congressional districts and 42 electoral votes in presidential elections,” he said.

“In no world does that echo the sentiment of equal representation.”

Pennacchio has also filed a companion bill that he says seeks to protect the process of redistricting New Jersey’s legislative seats by only counting New Jersey citizens during that process.

New Jersey has 12 U.S. House members, based on its current congressional maps, only three of which are Republicans. Democrats hold the state’s two U.S. Senate seats.

The constitutionally mandated census is required to count the country’s entire population, regardless of citizenship status. The 14th Amendment requires that those counts include the “whole number of persons in each state.”

In May, the Republican-controlled House voted along party lines to approve the Equal Representation Act that would add a question to the census asking for the respondent’s citizenship status and require that the U.S. only consider citizens when determining the number of congressional seats each state receives.

House Republicans argue that the requirement to include noncitizens in the decennial census count means that some states end up with greater representation in Congress based on the higher concentration of noncitizens.

“This dilutes the ‘one person, one vote’ principle for citizens in states with fewer noncitizens,” Rep. James Comer, a Kentucky Republican, said during a hearing on the bill. “It is clear that Congress can and should ensure a fair apportionment based on equal representation of citizens.

The proposal faces long odds in a divided Congress, and would also likely base legal challenges if it is approved. The Biden administration has said it “strongly opposes” the proposal and the Congressional Budget Office has warned that it would come with “unknown costs” from lowering participation in the census.

Besides deciding each state’s representation in Congress, every 10 years census count also determines how to divide billions of dollars in annual federal funding to states.

In 2019, the Trump administration sought to add a question to the 2020 Census asking respondents to identify whether they are U.S. citizens, but the move was ultimately blocked by the Supreme Court.

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