Back in March we wrote that Trump’s Commerce Department plans to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census is “craven attack on our democracy and a transparent attempt to intimidate immigrant communities,” and laid out the reasons why. This week we learned that Trump Administration officials withheld evidence and committed perjury in court cases that are challenging the addition of the citizenship question to the census questionnaire. For an Administration whose leader claims not to do cover-ups, this is just one more example that he does very much do cover-ups. But the withholding of evidence is important in its own right for what it shows about the motives of Republicans in wanting the change the Census.
As the Washington Post reported Thursday,
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,’ ” plaintiffs’ lawyers challenging the question wrote in a letter Thursday morning to U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman, one of three federal judges who ruled against the question this year. The lawyers also argued that Trump administration officials purposely obscured Hofeller’s role in court proceedings.WAPO, May 30
The new documents reveal that Republicans could gain doubly from the Trump administration’s concerted campaign to add a citizenship question to next year’s census. First, the question would undoubtedly depress the count among immigrants fearful that the government would hassle them if they revealed their noncitizen status. That in itself would deprive Democratic-leaning areas of representation in the next redistricting cycle. Second, the data could also enable states to move away from considering non-voters at all in their line-drawing in the way Mr. Hofeller envisioned, allowing pushing Democrats into larger, more competitive districts.
Two Trump Administration official deliberately lied to at least one court in order to cover-up Hofeller’s involvement in the push to change the Census. That’s in addition to withholding documents that should have been turned over as part of the court proceedings. Instead, they had the audacity to argue that the new citizenship question would allow better enforcement of the Voting Rights Act — a laughable argument with this Justice Department.
The Supreme Court will rule in the next few months. Meanwhile, we need to lay the groundwork for the possibility that this question will be in the Census in 2020. An inaccurate Census, as a result of undercounts, will not only hurt us in redistricting, it will also reduce Arizona’s share of federal funding for many programs including those related to education and health.
Read the lawyer’s letter to one of the judges handling these cases here.