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Rigging the Census for White Republicans

Updated: Jul 2, 2019

By Stacy Fitzgerald

Just a few weeks before the Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether the Trump Administration can add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, evidence has been found to show that the question was designed to give an electoral benefit to White Republicans, as opponents had argued from the start.

The source of the evidence: the files of a now deceased Republican operative that reveal just that. Notably, the operative’s estranged daughter shared hard drive files with Common Cause for a gerrymandering lawsuit it is pursuing in North Carolina.

Opponents of the citizenship question have long argued that it will suppress participation in the Census for households with noncitizens, leading to an undercount of immigrants and communities of color. The administration argued that it sought the addition of the question to better enforce part of the Voting Rights Act.

When prominent Republican strategist Thomas Hofeller died last August, his hard drive files indicate that he played a significant role in orchestrating the addition of the question to the Decennial Census to create, in his words, a “structural electoral advantage for Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.” Moreover, the files reveal that the Trump Administration purposely obscured Hofeller’s participation in court proceedings challenging the addition of the question.

Why the Question Matters

Results of the Decennial Census are used to determine how many seats each state receives in the House of Representatives and to distribute federal funds to local communities. Any effort to discourage minority participation in the Census would ultimately benefit White Republicans, giving them a stronghold on the electoral vote and underfunding local communities where those dollars are especially needed.

Through gerrymandering, voter suppression and now this attempt to suppress minority participation in the Census, Republicans have shown consistently that they will stop at nothing to maintain and strengthen their political advantage in an America that is expected to have a majority minority population by 2045. It’s all a part of a calculated effort to strengthen the GOP's political power while weakening that of minority communities, which typically support Democratic candidates.

Power Concedes Nothing Without Struggle

If stacking the deck were a competitive sport, Republicans would surely take the gold based upon their history of underhanded and blatantly illegal tactics.

The late Republican Strategist Hofeller concluded that “adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census would clearly be a disadvantage to Democrats” and benefit White Republicans in redistricting. Hofeller then pushed the idea with the Trump Administration in 2017, according to the Washington Post. The evidence of Hofeller’s involvement contradicts the sworn testimony of Trump administration officials, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose agency is responsible for the Census.

At this writing, it’s not known whether the new revelations detailing Hofeller’s involvement will impact the Supreme Court’s ruling, but lawyers for the plaintiffs challenging the addition of the question wrote U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman about the issue. Furman was one of the federal judges who ruled against the addition of the citizenship question to the Census earlier this year.

As we await the outcome, we’ve been granted another reminder that power concedes nothing without struggle. It’s the duty of every American citizen to support a truly representative democracy and to fight against these dirty, underhanded tactics to disenfranchise voters and rig the electoral system in favor of one political party.

Stacy Fitzgerald is a Washington, DC area Gen Xer whose obsessions include politics, traveling and food and wine ventures.

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