The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

New Evidence: Citizenship Question Added to Suppress Minority Voting

The Daily Escape:

Wallis Sands, NH – 2018 photo by CaptainReptar

“If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.” David Frum

Sometimes, the proof you need shows up just a little late. The Supreme Court will rule in June on whether or not a citizenship question can be added to the census in 2020. The case, Department of Commerce v. New York was argued before the Court back in April. At the time, most observers felt that a majority of the justices seemed inclined to support the administration’s position that there was no political agenda behind asking the citizenship question.

On Thursday, the NYT reported about a related lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York, which shows that all of the relevant information to decide the case was not available. The new evidence was obtained from Thomas Hofeller. Hofeller was the Republican Party’s guru on redistricting of electoral districts for political advantage. After Hofeller died, his estranged daughter found his computers and hard drives, and her mother gave them to her. She discovered files that demonstrated quite clearly that her father had been central to the creation of the census citizenship question.

From The New York Times: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“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. 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.”

This article on Thomas Hofeller offers evidence of the vote suppression intent of the census citizenship question that the Supreme Court is likely to approve in a few weeks. The new court filing shows that Hofeller’s digital fingerprints are all over the US DoJ actions to add a citizenship question:

  • The first was an Aug. 30, 2017 document from the Hofeller hard drives. The document’s single paragraph cited two court decisions supporting the premise that more detailed citizenship data would assist enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. That paragraph later appeared word for word in a draft letter from the Justice Department to the Census Bureau that sought a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
  • A second instance involves the official version of the Justice Department’s request for a citizenship question. It was a more detailed letter sent to the Census Bureau in December, 2017, presenting technical arguments that current citizenship data falls short of Voting Rights Act requirements. The plaintiffs in the new case show those arguments are presented in exactly the same order, and sometimes with identical descriptions as in a 2015 study by Mr. Hofeller. In that study, Hofeller concluded that adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census “would clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites” in redistricting.

Seems damning, but why should the Supremes need more evidence? Three federal district courts had already decided this question without seeing this additional evidence. They were able to see through the transparent attempt by the GOP to undermine voting rights.

The 14th Amendment, Section II says:

“Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.”

The founder’s intent there seems pretty clear: The whole number of persons. And since when is it the responsibility of a member of Congress to only represent the eligible voters in his or her district?

The new smoking-gun evidence shows that government officials lied when they used the Voting Rights Act as their excuse for including the question. But, that will likely be seen by the SCOTUS as irrelevant, assuming they believe that the actual reason is a permissible action by the Commerce Dept.

Republicans love to complain about those Democrats who are now advocating for eliminating the Electoral College, saying that doing so would amount to “changing the rules because Democrats lost.” What should be obvious is that Republicans are constantly, and relentlessly changing the rules. See Mitch McConnell’s rewrite of his Merrick Garland policy just this week.

Over and over, Republicans gerrymander and suppress the vote in whatever way they can. They do this as part of their effort to shore up the voting power of their white voter base, while diluting the voting power of minorities.

They know demographics are not on their side, so they are willing to take extreme measures to solidify their position, regardless of the impact on the nation.

  • John Sutton says:

    The 14th amendment is somewhat confusing, as the initial statement talks about “whole number of persons” yet the rest of the section talks about adjusting the representation number if citizens are denied their right to vote…” But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors…is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged,…the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.” Sounds like the forefathers might actually have meant that the “whole number of persons” should represent the legally qualified, i.e. 21 yo AND citizens in which case a census question, unless too confusing for minorities to understand might actually give a more accurate representation of a given region.

    May 31, 2019 at 7:46 am
    • wrongologist says:

      Good observation, John, it’s complicated. The un-amended Constitution uses the terms “citizen,” “person,” and “the people.” The First, Second, and Fourth Amendments refer to “the people.” The Bill of Rights contains no references to citizens. You must be a citizen to be eligible for the Presidency, the Senate, or the House of Representatives. The Fourteenth Amendment’s Privileges or Immunities Clause refers to “citizens”, while other clauses refer to “person,” like the Fifth Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses.
      The different phrase usages do not necessarily tell us what each mean, but it suggests that “citizen” and “person” probably have different meanings, because the Framers could have chosen to use one term, but used both.

      I kind of agree with Terry (below) that the current census debate will come down to Justice Roberts.

      There is a comprehensive write-up at:

      May 31, 2019 at 9:22 am
  • Terry McKenna says:

    The conservative alliance (Federalist society) have their goals and they will achieve them by any means. Judges will say any word salad that appear to support their ends. So it was that the Supreme Court overrule Congress re the Voting Rights act. So too with Citizens United the right wing unleashed the power of rich mcampaign donors. So on this issue, will Roberts (spoiled upper middle class white man) and the conservatives continue the conservative seizure of power? (Abetted by McConnell?)

    Is it time to take to the barricades?

    May 31, 2019 at 9:16 am

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