Bombshell Files From Late Thomas Hofeller Suggest Republicans Gerrymandered North Carolina Based On Race

Demonstrators gather outside of The United States Supreme Court during an oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford to call for an end to partisan gerrymandering on October 3, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Olivier Douliery / Getty Images

A bombshell report from The New Yorker shines a light on secret files from the late Republican Party operative Thomas Hofeller, who is known to be the “master” of modern gerrymandering — the manipulation of electoral constituency boundaries to favor a particular party.

The report stems from at least 70,000 files and several years of e-mails that suggest Hofeller may have used gerrymandering to unconstitutionally determine North Carolina districts based on race data. Within the archives are studies in which North Carolina college students are separated by race. From here, their information is cross-referenced to the state’s driver’s license files to hone in on students that most likely possessed identification that allowed them to vote.

Given that the studies are dated 2014 and 2015 — before Hofeller helped North Carolina Republicans gerrymander its districts — the findings will likely give voting-rights groups more ammunition to argue that the redrawing was discriminating based on race.

“Hofeller’s hard drive also retained a map of North Carolina’s 2017 state judicial gerrymander, with an overlay of the black voting-age population by district, suggesting that these maps—which are currently at the center of a protracted legal battle—might also be a racial gerrymander,” the report read, before delving into Hofeller’s work to add a citizenship question added to the census.

Per The Washington Post, Democrats are challenging Republican electoral maps around the country. Recently, they took a hit when the Supreme Court ruled in June that partisan gerrymandering cannot be taken to federal court, effectively taking down all of their court cases in one fell swoop. However, a North Carolina state court ruled earlier this week that the state’s maps were “unconstitutionally partisan,” and the recent New Yorker report supports this ruling.

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Although he spoke before the release of the damning report, Richard H. Pildes, a law professor and redistricting expert at New York University, believes that the recent North Carolina state court ruling could empower other state courts to take on the issue of partisan gerrymandering.

“Other state courts might feel strengthened in the view that state courts can and should take on this issue, and they now have a 300-plus page road map for how to do it.”

Under the United States Constitution, gerrymandering cannot be enacted to dilute to votes of racial groups. Although North Carolina Republicans have admitted that they drew the state’s maps to gain partisan advantage, they claim it wasn’t done to harm minority groups. But together, the recent New Yorker report and state court win could prove trouble for Republicans that are under fire from Democrats scrutinizing their gerrymandering practices.