U.S. Commerce Secretary and census overseer Wilbur Ross
Photo: Win McNamee (Getty)

Virtual messages from the grave prove that the Trump administration’s push to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census has indeed been a craven ploy to benefit Republicans and “non-Hispanic whites.”

That’s according to lawyers for those making a court challenge to the addition of the question to the census, according to the Washington Post, which explains:

The evidence was found in the files of the prominent Republican redistricting strategist Thomas Hofeller after his death in August. It reveals that Hofeller “played a significant role in orchestrating the addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 Decennial Census in order to create a structural electoral advantage for, in his own words, ‘Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites,’ ”

Hofeller, as the New York Times described him, was a Republican strategist known as “the Michelangelo of gerrymandering, the architect of partisan political maps,” aiding the GOP cause for political dominance.

But after his death in August of last year, Hofeller’s estranged daughter found hard drives of Hofeller’s that contained the incriminating startling information, and she forwarded them to the watchdog group Common Cause, the Times reports.

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The files show that back in 2017, Hofeller pushed his idea to the Trump administration, which jumped on it, lawyers for the plaintiffs charged Thursday in a court filing to federal Judge Jesse M. Furman.

Furman is one of three federal judges who ruled against the citizenship question this year, sending the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to rule on the issue within weeks.

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The info in Hofeller’s files also contradicts what members of the Trump administration testified was the reason for wanting to add the citizenship question—that doing so would help enforce the Voting Rights Act, the plaintiffs’ lawyers added, the Post reports.

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In fact, according to the Post, Hofeller’s files show that in 2017, he helped ghostwrite a Department of Justice letter to the Commerce Department (which oversees the census under current Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross), seeking the citizenship question and giving the Voting Rights Act rationale for doing so.

As the Post explains, when the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in April:

the high court’s five conservatives seemed to lean toward allowing the question, citing the Voting Rights Act rationale and focusing not on Ross’s motivations, but rather on whether he was simply using the power he was authorized to exercise.

The court’s liberal justices were skeptical. Justice Elana Kagan said Ross seemed to be “shopping for a need,” trying unsuccessfully to get Justice and Homeland Security officials to request the question before finally getting the Justice Department to agree.

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“You can’t read this record without sensing that this—this need is a contrived one,” Kagan said at the time, according to the Post.

Critics of the move to add a citizenship question say there’s no need to wait for the Supreme Court to rule on the matter, urging Congress to act now.

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“Republican political operatives plainly want to deny communities of color the health care, education and other services they need in order to consolidate GOP power and a whiter electorate,” Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said, according to the Post. “We call on Congress to hold Trump administration officials—including Secretary Ross—accountable now and not to wait until after the Supreme Court ruling to do so.”

Welp. There’s an old saying that goes: “What’s done in the dark will always come to light.”

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Looks like the light in this case may have some scurrying for cover.