Last August, a legend of the Republican Party died, taking with him the secrets of redistricting that have led to the losses of a thousand Democratic seats in Congress and state legislatures over the last decade — or so we thought.
It turns out there is still more to learn from Thomas Hofeller on the hard drives he left behind after his passing, including the secret to why Donald Trump is so hell-bent on adding a citizenship question to the United States Census, which is done every ten years and is coming up next year.
Normally, the questions to be included on the Census have been decided by now, but the Trump administration wants to include the question — “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” — it says, to better enforce the protections in the Voting Rights Act for racial and language minorities.
But according to a New York lawsuit against including the question that unearthed the Hofeller hard drives, the administration is well aware that not only would such a question not protect or benefit the Latino population at all as Trump officials suggest, but it would instead benefit Republicans and, in fact, “significantly reduce [Latinos’] political power.” How do we know that the Trump administration knows this?
Hofeller helped them come up with the Voting Rights Act rationale for including the question that the administration later used to argue their case before the Supreme Court.
This revelation comes just weeks before a Trump-friendly SCOTUS is expected to deliver a ruling on Trump’s demand to include the question on the 2020 Census, although it’s unclear whether this clear evidence of ulterior motive by Republicans and the Trump administration will sway the largely anti-immigrant conservative majority on the Court.
The mechanism by which the move would benefit the GOP would be to reduce the total number of people counted in the Census, and, using that data, change redistricting rules to rely on a “citizens of voting age” population count versus a total population. That would dilute traditionally Democratic districts, forcing them into smaller districts where Latinos would be less likely to be the determinative demographic that elects a particular candidate.
Of course, Democrats could eventually fight back if they regain power in the 2020 election, forcing traditionally Republican states with the nation’s highest prison populations to stop counting incarcerated state residents with no voting rights as part of the redistricting population, effecting the same demographic shift: Fewer, smaller districts in traditionally Republican areas that would dilute the political power of white, non-college-educated voters.
This new evidence should be enough for the Supreme Court to strike down Trump’s demand for a citizenship question, if only on the grounds that the administration’s legal argument can be proven to be based on a lie. Whether they do or not could prove whether or not Trump and the GOP have been successful in their long game of stacking the courts with right-wing judges.
Featured image is a screen capture.