Monday, June 03, 2019

Dead man's files suggest citizenship question for census has political motive; could cost immigrant-heavy areas

Recently discovered computer files reveal that a proposed census question about citizenship may have been added to benefit the Republican party. Such a question could lead to undercounting in many rural areas with large Latino populations, such as agricultural communities, and cause them to lose federal and state appropriations. "The disclosures represent the most explicit evidence to date that the Trump administration added the question to the 2020 census to advance Republican Party interests," Michael Wines reports for The New York Times.

The matter came to light after the estranged daughter of legendary Republican strategist Thomas Hofeller went through his files after his death. She discovered evidence that he had played a critical role in adding the question to the 2020 census. "Files on those drives showed that he wrote a study in 2015 concluding that adding a citizenship question to the census would allow Republicans to draft even more extreme gerrymandered maps to stymie Democrats," Wines reports. "And months after urging President Trump’s transition team to tack the question onto the census, he wrote the key portion of a draft Justice Department letter claiming the question was needed to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act — the rationale the administration later used to justify its decision.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legality of the citizenship question in the next few weeks. Opponents of adding the question cited Hofeller's files in a federal court filing last Thursday. They say the question would cause fewer immigrants to be counted and give more political power to Republican areas, Wines reports.

The Justice Department said the accusations in the filing were baseless and meant to "derail" the Supreme Court's consideration of the case. It also said that the decision to add the citizenship question to the census was not influenced by Hofeller's 2015 study, Wines reports.

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