Mounting Evidence Of Lying By The Trump Administration About Why They’re Adding A Citizenship Question To The 2020 Census May Not Be Enough To Keep It Off…

Current census bureau splash page about plans for the 2020 survey

But that’s why it’s important to keep telling the story…

Now that Trump’s back on U.S. soil, and the nonsense about very definitely calling someone “nasty” and then denying it, and what he wore, and who paid for drinks in Ireland is over, one of the stories we strongly felt was being neglected is picking up some momentum.

And that’s good, because the effectiveness of this story will probably hinge on the telling of it, since we’re more than a little skeptical it’ll have any impact at all in the real world. Because even though there appears to be a real smoking gun, it’s likely whatever the reason, and however it was rolled out, and however many lies were told, and however much the evidence piles up, the question will get on.

The latest, most damning revelation is an odd story, and here’s how it started: a legendary Republican strategist, Tom Hofeller, died last summer, and his daughter has since found a bunch of drives with information about–among other things, some of which we don’t know about yet–how to get a citizenship question on the 2020 census, and how to use that question as an excuse to redistrict, leading to the disenfranchisement of Democratic voters. Especially in Texas where such redistricted maps:

“…would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.”

Here’s Hofeller appearing on a panel about redistricting in 2001:

And according to that information obtained and released by Common Cause, and first reported on by the New York Times in this story, Hofeller didn’t only lobby the Trump Administration hard to try to implement the idea, he invented it.

The Trump Administration argues they need to add the following question to the next census:

Is this person a citizen of the United States“?

And they say it’s so they can better enforce the Voting Rights Act in order to make sure Latino populations aren’t underrepresented. Of course it’s pretty clear that question will have the opposite effect. Have we seen any studies? No. How do we know? Common sense. (And there’s a pretty compelling review in the Washington Post). If someone is not in the U.S. legally, or has family who are not in the U.S. legally, they are going to be very cautious about answering that question, because many of them won’t trust the government’s promise to keep results confidential. And with Trump as President, would you?

Thing is, the census is meant to count total population, and allocate representation based on that, not exclusively on the who is and who isn’t a citizen. So why ask that question if there’s nothing you can really use the answer for? And if that’s the case then, what can you do if you want to reduce counts in areas with a lot of immigrants, that tend to be urban and lean Democrat? Make up a reason that seems to have a goal and outcome in mind, and insist that’s the real reason you’re asking. That way you might get to do some redistricting in favor of Republicans, while at the same time possibly (or in this case even probably) giving the Supreme Court something they can buy into if they want.

And we want to make a couple of things clear here:

  1. This has nothing to do with whether there should be a citizenship question on the census or not: we are not offering an opinion of any kind on that here.
  2. We are not saying the Supreme Court is corrupt. While the Court is expected to rule on the question soon, they might accept the Trump Administration’s faux argument. Or they might rule the Trump Administration has the right to add that question even if it’s lying about why. Or they might surprise everyone.

Are these new revelations expected to have any impact on the Court’s decision? We have no way of knowing for sure, but we’d say unlikely. That’s because while Hofeller’s views have not been memorialized in print before and he was hell bent against using email, (which he’s totally right about especially if you’re trying to do something sneaky it can really get you into trouble), he has said a lot of this same stuff before in speeches and briefings.

At the same time the Trump Administration is concerned enough about the new information that they responded with a brief for a federal court judge, echoing one of Trump’s favorite arguments: that they barely knew the guy, he has very little to do with conceiving of or drafting the question, and even though their objectives seem perfectly aligned, they’re not.

Which is why this is such an important story to tell. Because we believe most voters don’t want anything that even smacks of cheating anywhere near their elections. Even Republicans. So even if the Supreme Court says it’s OK, and the citizenship question gets on, this reporting could—we hope—raise awareness in people’s minds about just how fishy a place this is all coming from.

We heard someone on a podcast today saying “redestricting is the last legal way to steal an election.” No, there are many ways to skin that cat: for instance in Florida, where the Republican-controlled legislature just made it much, much, much, much harder to get a public question on that state’s ballot. Even though Republicans won a Senate seat and the Governor’s office last year, Florida’s voters also overwhelmingly approved resorting a felon’s right to vote after they did their time. Florida’s Republican Governor Rom DeSantis promptly de-fanged that by requiring those felons also pay all assessed fines, but it was a close call, and not something they wanted to go through again. But of course, on the face of it, restoring voting rights to felons says nothing about whether they’ll vote Republican or Democrat. But there is hard data showing any expansion of voting rights favors Democrats, repression favors Republicans. Hence all these bald-faced lies.