Computer files belonging to a deceased Republican strategist are shedding light on the Trump administration's motivation in their attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, as Buzzfeed News reports. The files belonged to the late Thomas Hofeller, whose consulting work is best known for helping to develop the voting district maps which helped tip the scales in favor of Republicans when they took control of the House in 2010.
Hofeller had conducted a study in 2015 which determined that a citizenship question would adversely affect Latinos and "clearly be a disadvantage for the Democrats."
In addition to identifying the political opportunity of adding such a question, Hofeller is also credited with helping to advocate for the question's addition, including by ghostwriting a Department of Justice letter asking the Department of Commerce to add it to the census for 2020. Instead of citing the electoral advantages he was pursuing, he instead framed the request as a matter of helping the DOJ enforce voting rights.
Those electoral advantages, though, were clear.
"A switch to the use of citizen voting age population as the redistricting population base for redistricting would be advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites," read the conclusion of the study.In a Justice Department statement provided to BuzzFeed News, a spokesperson insisted that the study in fact "played no role" in their decision to add the citizenship question, denying knowledge of the study altogether.
"These eleventh-hour allegations by the plaintiffs, including an accusation of dishonesty against a senior Department of Justice official, are false," the statement said. "These unfounded allegations are an unfortunate last-ditch effort to derail the Supreme Court's consideration of this case."
The Supreme Court is indeed expected to weigh in on the matter in the near future after more than a dozen states challenged the legality of adding a citizenship question. Those states, together with a number of cities and counties, contest that such a move would deter non-citizens from participating in the survey and ultimately deliver an inaccurate census. Such undercounting, in addition to affecting political districts and potentially representation in the United States House of Representatives, would also affect the distribution of funding in affected areas.
"This new evidence shows there was [a] plan to undermine the integrity of our Census, manipulate redistricting and rig the elections for partisan advantage," said Kathay Feng, the national redistricting director of Common Cause, a non-profit organization that advocates for voting rights and transparency in government.