Deceased G.O.P. Strategist’s Hard Drives Reveal New Details on the Census Citizenship Question – News

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WASHINGTON — Thomas B. Hofeller achieved near-mythic standing within the Republican Occasion because the Michelangelo of gerrymandering, the architect of partisan political maps that cemented the get together’s dominance throughout the nation.

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However after he died final summer season, his estranged daughter found onerous drives in her father’s house that exposed one thing else: Mr. Hofeller had performed a vital position within the Trump administration’s determination so as to add a citizenship query to the 2020 census.

Information on these drives confirmed that he wrote a research in 2015 concluding that including a citizenship query to the census would permit Republicans to draft much more excessive gerrymandered maps to stymie Democrats. And months after urging President Trump’s transition group to tack the query onto the census, he wrote the important thing portion of a draft Justice Division letter claiming the query was wanted to implement the 1965 Voting Rights Act — the rationale the administration later used to justify its determination.

These paperwork, cited in a federal courtroom submitting Thursday by opponents in search of to dam the citizenship query, have emerged solely weeks earlier than the Supreme Courtroom is anticipated to rule on the legality of the citizenship query. Critics say including the query would deter many immigrants from being counted and shift political energy to Republican areas.

The disclosures characterize essentially the most express proof to this point that the Trump administration added the query to the 2020 census to advance Republican Occasion pursuits.

[Contained in the Trump administration’s struggle so as to add a citizenship query to the census]

In a press release issued on Thursday night, the Justice Division stated the accusations within the submitting have been baseless and amounted to “a last-ditch effort to derail the Supreme Courtroom’s consideration of this case.” It stated Mr. Hofeller’s 2015 research had “performed no position within the division’s December 2017 request to reinstate a citizenship query to the 2020 decennial census.”

In Supreme Courtroom arguments in April over the legality of the choice, the Trump administration argued that the advantages of acquiring extra correct citizenship information offset any injury stemming from the probably depressed response to the census by minority teams and noncitizens. And it dismissed expenses that the Commerce Division had merely invented a justification for including the query to the census as unsupported by the proof.

Opponents stated that the Justice Division’s rationale for in search of so as to add a citizenship query to the census was baldly contrived, a conclusion shared by federal judges in all three lawsuits opposing the administration’s motion.

However a majority of the Supreme Courtroom justices appeared inclined to just accept the division’s rationalization the query was wanted to implement the Voting Rights Act, and appeared able to uphold the administration’s authority to change census questions because it sees match. The justices are anticipated to difficulty a ultimate ruling earlier than the courtroom’s time period ends in late June.

The submitting on Thursday sought sanctions in opposition to the defendants within the lawsuit, led by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr., who have been accused of misrepresentations “on the central problems with this case.” Decide Jesse M. Furman of United States District Courtroom in Manhattan set a listening to on the problem for Wednesday.

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In practically 230 years, the census has by no means requested all respondents whether or not they’re Americans. However whereas including such a query may seem uncontroversial on its face, opponents have argued that it’s really central to a Republican technique to skew political boundaries to their benefit when redistricting begins in 2021.

[How the Supreme Courtroom’s determination on the census might alter American politics.]

Till now, Mr. Hofeller appeared a bystander within the citizenship-question debate, talked about however as soon as in 1000’s of pages of lawsuit depositions and proof. Proof of his deeper involvement surfaced solely not too long ago, and solely after a outstanding string of occasions starting after his dying in August at age 75.

Mr. Hofeller was survived by a daughter, Stephanie Hofeller, from whom he had been estranged since 2014. In an interview, Ms. Hofeller stated she realized of her father’s dying accidentally after looking for his title on the web, and returned to her mother and father’ retirement house in Raleigh, N.C., to see her mom, Kathleen Hofeller.

Sorting by Mr. Hofeller’s private results, on the lookout for objects she had requested her father to avoid wasting for her, Stephanie Hofeller got here throughout a transparent plastic bag holding 4 exterior onerous drives and 18 thumb drives, backups of knowledge on Mr. Hofeller’s Toshiba laptop computer. Her mom gave Ms. Hofeller the backups, which turned out to carry some 75,000 recordsdata — household images and different private information, but additionally an enormous trove of paperwork associated to Mr. Hofeller’s work as a Republican marketing consultant.

Late final yr, Ms. Hofeller stated, she contacted the Raleigh workplace of the advocacy group Frequent Trigger, in search of its assist in discovering a lawyer unconnected to her father to assist settle his property. Solely after a number of conversations with a workers member there did she point out the onerous drives in passing, she stated, remarking nearly jokingly that an professional on gerrymanders may discover lots in them that was of curiosity.

“My understanding was that something that may be on these onerous drives was duplicative of issues that had already been hashed out” in courtroom challenges to Mr. Hofeller’s maps, she stated.

In actual fact, Frequent Trigger had not too long ago filed a brand new lawsuit in state courtroom, difficult gerrymandered maps of North Carolina’s legislative districts drawn by Mr. Hofeller himself. When the workers member advised her of the lawsuit, Ms. Hofeller stated, she thought, “Wow — this could be of use.”

Attorneys for Arnold & Porter, the regulation agency representing Frequent Trigger within the North Carolina swimsuit, subpoenaed the drives in February. By happenstance, the identical agency was representing personal plaintiffs professional bono within the principal lawsuit opposing the citizenship query, in Federal District Courtroom in Manhattan.

The paperwork cited within the Thursday courtroom submitting embody an unpublished August 2015 evaluation by Mr. Hofeller, who was employed by The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative information outlet financially backed by Paul Singer, a billionaire New York hedge fund supervisor and main Republican donor. Mr. Hofeller’s cost was to evaluate the impression of drawing political maps that weren’t based mostly on a state’s whole inhabitants — the present apply just about in every single place within the nation — however on a slice of that inhabitants: Americans of voting age.

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On the time, the research’s sponsor was contemplating whether or not to finance a lawsuit by conservative authorized advocates that argued that counting voting-age residents was not merely acceptable, however required by the Structure.

Mr. Hofeller’s exhaustive evaluation of Texas state legislative districts concluded that such maps “can be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites,” and would dilute the political energy of the state’s Hispanics.

The explanation, he wrote, was that the maps would exclude historically Democratic Hispanics and their kids from the inhabitants depend. That might power Democratic districts to increase to satisfy the Structure’s one individual, one vote requirement. In flip, that may translate into fewer districts in historically Democratic areas, and a brand new alternative for Republican mapmakers to create even stronger gerrymanders.

The technique carried a deadly flaw, nevertheless: The detailed citizenship information that was wanted to attract the maps didn’t exist. The one present tally of voting-age residents, Mr. Hofeller’s research acknowledged, got here from a statistical pattern of the inhabitants largely utilized by the Justice Division to confirm that the 1965 Voting Rights Act was guaranteeing the voting rights of minority teams.

“And not using a query on citizenship being included on the 2020 Decennial Census questionnaire,” Mr. Hofeller wrote, “using citizen voting age inhabitants is functionally unworkable.”

Roughly 16 months later, as President-elect Trump ready to take workplace, Mr. Hofeller urged Mr. Trump’s transition group to contemplate including a citizenship query to the census, the transition official accountable for census points, Mark Neuman, stated final yr in a deposition within the Manhattan census lawsuit.

Mr. Neuman testified that Mr. Hofeller advised him that utilizing citizenship information from the census to implement the Voting Rights Act would improve Latino political illustration — the other of what Mr. Hofeller’s research had concluded months earlier.

Courtroom information present that Mr. Neuman, a decades-long pal of Mr. Hofeller’s, later grew to become a casual adviser on census points to Mr. Ross, the commerce secretary. By that summer season, a high aide to Mr. Ross was urgent the Justice Division to say that it required detailed information from a census citizenship query to higher implement the Voting Rights Act.

The courtroom submitting on Thursday describes two cases by which Mr. Hofeller’s digital fingerprints are clearly seen on Justice Division actions.

The primary entails a doc from the Hofeller onerous drives created on Aug. 30, 2017, as Mr. Ross’s wooing of the Justice Division was nearing a crescendo. The doc’s single paragraph cited two courtroom choices supporting the premise that extra detailed citizenship information would help enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.

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That paragraph later appeared phrase for phrase in a draft letter from the Justice Division to the Census Bureau that sought a citizenship query on the 2020 census. In closed congressional testimony in March, John M. Gore, the assistant lawyer basic for civil rights and the Justice Division’s chief overseer of voting rights points, stated Mr. Neuman gave him the draft in an October 2017 assembly.

The second occasion entails the official model of the Justice Division’s request for a citizenship query, an extended and extra detailed letter despatched to the Census Bureau in December 2017. That letter presents nuanced and technical arguments that present citizenship information falls wanting Voting Rights Act necessities — arguments that the plaintiffs say are introduced in precisely the identical order, and typically with equivalent descriptions like “constructing blocks” — as in Mr. Hofeller’s 2015 research.

Of their courtroom submitting on Thursday, legal professionals for the plaintiffs stated that “many placing similarities” between Mr. Hofeller’s research and the division’s request for a citizenship query indicated that the research was an essential supply doc for the Justice Division’s request.

The submitting additionally says flatly that Mr. Gore and Mr. Neuman “falsely testified” beneath oath concerning the Justice Division’s actions on the citizenship query.

In an interview on Thursday, Mr. Neuman denied the cost, and stated he had labored for years to extend Hispanic illustration in public workplace. “I gave full and truthful testimony in my deposition,” he stated. “My mom immigrated to this nation from Central America. Any reference that I’d advocate actions that hurt the pursuits of the Latino group is flawed and deeply offensive.”

The Departments of Justice and Commerce had no rapid touch upon the filings. Frequent Trigger, which first obtained the onerous drives, stated the revelations on them have been a wake-up name to supporters of the American system. “Now that the plan has been revealed, it’s essential for all of us — the courts, leaders and the folks — to face up for a democracy that features each voice,” stated Kathay Feng, the group’s nationwide redistricting director.

Ms. Hofeller stated her determination to open her father’s recordsdata to his opponents was a bid for transparency, devoid of private or political animus. Though she believed he was undermining American democracy, she stated, their estrangement stemmed not from partisan variations, however a household dispute that ended up in courtroom. Ms. Hofeller described herself as a political progressive who despises Republican partisanship, but additionally has scant respect for Democrats.

Her father, she stated, was a superb cartographer who was deeply dedicated to conventional conservative rules like free will and restricted authorities. As a toddler, she stated, she was schooled in those self same rules, however each successive gerrymandered map he created solely solidified her conviction that he had deserted them in a quest to entrench his get together in everlasting management.

“He had me with the concept that we’re made to be free,” she stated. “After which he misplaced me.”

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