October 9, 2019

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The Census Must be Conducted Without Bias

May 31, 2019

A newly disclosed 2015 study by a Republican redistricting expert reportedly concludes that using the "citizen voting age" population to decide how voting districts are drawn would be "advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites." In other words, including a citizenship question would most likely benefit the GOP. Opponents say the study reveals that's the real motive behind the Trump administration's desire to add the question. The Supreme Court is debating whether, procedurally, it's even possible. Trump's team says the question is needed to bolster the Voting Rights Act, but critics say this latest revelation shows it amounts to a political power grab. 


The strategist, Thomas Hofeller, was a Republican known as "the Michelangelo of gerrymandering" for his work in creating partisan districts that benefited the GOP. Files on hard drives discovered by his daughter after his death showed that he wrote a 2015 study that found that adding a citizenship question to the census would lead to more Republican-friendly congressional maps.


Those documents suggest that “the Trump Administration added the citizenship question not to help enforce the Voting Rights Act, which was the pretext they tried to sell the American people, but to gerrymander congressional districts in overtly racist and partisan ways,” House Oversight Chairman Elijah E. Cummings said.


“The Administration’s actions are unconstitutional and un-American,” said New York Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, an Oversight member and co-leader of the House Census Caucus. “This is another blatant attack on our democracy.”


The new information on possible motivations for Ross’ decision to add the citizenship question comes at the eleventh hour for the Supreme Court, which is nearing an opinion on whether the Commerce Department can add it to the 2020 census.


The case already was rushed to the court ahead of a July deadline for sending the questionnaires to be printed, and the justices agreed to quickly decide the case so they could issue a ruling before the end of June.


These documents are “doubly problematic” because it indicates not just that the government had a different, unstated reason for the citizenship question, Ho said, but that its goal was the exact opposite of what the administration was trying to do.


“If the government can do things and do them for reasons that are opposite of the government is saying publicly, we’re in Orweillian territory,” said Dale Ho, the director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.


Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, said the new information puts the court in a difficult spot because it shows a malicious and impermissible purpose for the government’s decision.


“It would strike a blow at the court’s reputation if it allows that kind of action to stand in the face of this,” she said.


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