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GOP Gerrymandering Expert Had Role In Census Citizenship Question, Filing Says

A Republican consultant involved in the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census believed that adding the question would pave the way for redistricting that would increase the political power of “Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites,” according to a filing made public Thursday.

The consultant, Thomas Hofeller, ghostwrote what would later become the Justice Department’s formal request to add the citizenship question to the census, according to a trove of documents revealed in a sensational court filing Thursday morning.

Lawyers from the ACLU and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, representing immigration advocacy groups, shared the new evidence in a federal lawsuit in New York challenging the addition of the question.

Hofeller, who died last year, helped write the request in 2017, the filing says, two years after he did an analysis showing that redistricting using only the population of voting-age citizens in a district ― not the total voting-age population ― would be advantageous to Republicans. Hofeller’s analysis, which the groups included in their filing, argues that getting a citizenship question on the census is a necessary precursor to redistricting that way.

The civil liberties groups are highlighting the evidence because they argue that the Justice Department’s official rationale for adding the citizenship question ― better enforcement of the Voting Rights Act ― is not the real one. The plaintiffs say the Trump administration intentionally wants fewer minorities to respond to the survey and to exclude noncitizens from redistricting. 

An inaccurate census would have severe consequences: In addition to being used to draw electoral districts, nearly $880 billion in federal funds annually are allocated based on census data, and businesses rely on it to make key decisions.

The federal judge in this case ruled against the Trump administration in January and blocked it from adding the citizenship question. The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case in April and appeared to be leaning toward allowing the question. A ruling is expected by the end of June.

The Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce, which oversees the census, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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