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US elections: Trump signs order that could skew redrawing of voting districts

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US President Donald Trump signed an order Tuesday that would exclude illegal immigrants in a count that determines how many congressional seats will be allocated to each state.

Reapportionment is the redistribution of seats in the US House of Representatives based on changes in population found in a census that takes place every ten years.

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But according to Trump, the Constitution does not define which persons should be included in the apportionment base. In a memo signed by the American president, he said this never meant including “every individual physically present within a State’s boundaries at the time of the census.”

“I have accordingly determined that respect for the law and protection of the integrity of the democratic process warrant the exclusion of illegal aliens from the apportionment base, to the extent feasible and to the maximum extent of the President’s discretion under the law,” Trump said in the statement.

Read more: US elections: Joe Biden vows to include Muslim-Americans in his administration

Trump said those on business trips or vacation in the US, “and certain foreign diplomatic personnel” were not included in previous censuses. He also said there were US citizens abroad that were not counted in past censuses.

The move could also cause populous states with large immigrant contingents to lose seats in the 435-member US House of Representatives, including big Democratic-leaning states like California - currently with 53 seats - and New York, with 27.

In 2019, Trump unsuccessfully tried to include a citizenship question to the census. The Supreme Court said there had to be a justification for adding the item, which Democrats said would intimidate many from filling out the poll. The last time citizenship status was on a US census was 1950.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized the memo and said that Congress would “vigorously contest” the “unlawful attempt” to impair the census.

Experts also believe the decision will not hold in court. “The Census is the purview of Congress, not the president,” David Ramadan, a former member of the Virginia House, told Al Arabiya English.

Ramadan, now at the Schar School of Government at George Mason University, added: “Counting every person in the US, regardless of legal status, is essential to the proper appropriation of federal funds to states, counties and cities.”

- With Reuters