With the Supreme Court believed to be weeks away from deciding whether a citizenship issue can be included in the 2020 census, newly discovered documents suggest that the reason why the Trump administration attempted to add it initially was to give political advantage to "Republicans and non-Spanish whites."
Found on a computer hard drive by Republican redistricting expert Thomas Hofeller of his foreign daughter after his death in August, the documents seem to show the deep political roots of the citizenship problem. They include a 2015 study that concludes that a census of citizens would only provide a better way of defending the congressional districts that favor the Republicans. "Without a question of citizenship included in the questionnaire for the millennium 2020," wrote Hofeller in excerpts published Thursday by the New York Times, "the use of bourgeois age group is functionally unmanageable."
Since December 2017, when commercial secretary Wilbur Ross formally requested the census to add the citizenship issue, opponents have argued that its involvement would prevent immigrants and minority members from participating, which in turn would result in a lower population census – and one reduction in political power – in areas that are more likely to vote democratic. Ros's statement that the issue was necessary to better enforce the 1965 voting law was just a pretext that the opponents have said, with the real goal of being political.
Also found on the hard drive was a draft letter by Hofeller justifying the issue as necessary to enforce the law on voting rights. Some of the languages in this letter came later in Ross's requests to include the controversial issue.
Stephanie Hofeller turned the hard drive to lawyers for the applicants in a separate gerrymandering case, Common Cause v. Lewis, involving controversial elections cards in North Carolina. These lawyers also represented opponents of the citizenship issue in the Department of Commerce v. New York, which is now for the Supreme Court.
"The evidence reveals that the plan to add the bourgeoisie was eradicated by the Republicans' chief redistricting mastermind to create an election advantage," Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn said in a statement. "This contradicts the testimony of administration officials that they wanted to add the question to the benefit of the Latin voters, since in fact the opposite was true."
The census is performed every 10 years in the United States as indicated by the Constitution, which requires an "actual listing" to distribute seats in the House of Representatives based on "the whole number of people in each state."
The citizenship question has not been asked to respondents since 1950, and was then only asked for the sub-group, which was randomly assigned the "long-form" version of the questionnaire. If allowed by the Supreme Court, this would be the first time in history that anyone living in the United States would be asked if they were nationals.
Experts estimate that 6.5 million people would not be counted in the 2020 census if the issue were to be included and that several states – specifically Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas – would lose seats in Congress and federal funding of programs based on population. A suit in New York to block the issue was heard by the Supreme Court in April. At that time, Trump administration lawyers argued that the value of the citizenship information in the enforcement of the voting law offsets any potential damage caused by depressed participation among immigrants and minority groups. The government has also directly rejected arguments saying that the link to voting rights was a fabricated rationalization.
The Court's observers believe that the Court's new conservative majority seemed inclined to accept the administration's argument that the issue was necessary and not political. A suit filed Thursday at the Southern District Court in New York, which decided on those who would block the inclusion of the question, asks Judge Jesse M. Furman to bring "sanctions or other appropriate relief" in the light of the new documents , even as the Supreme Court considers the appeal of its decision.
The Supreme Court concludes its session at the end of June. The timing is significant because the final census forms are scheduled to be printed the same month.