Blocked from Rigging Census, Trump Pushes Use of Citizenship Data to Draw New GOP-Friendly Electoral Maps

Interview with Keshia Morris, program associate with Common Cause, conducted by Scott Harris

Although the Trump regime’s drive to include a question on citizenship in the 2020 U.S. Census came to an end when the president held a press event on July 11, he is still clearly determined to use citizenship data to give the Republican Party an advantage in the methods used to draw new electoral maps. Trump said he was issuing an executive order instructing federal departments and agencies to provide the Census Bureau with citizenship statistics from their databases, repeating a policy announced last year by the Commerce Dept.

It’s clear that the president’s ultimate goal is to eliminate non-voters from the population counts used every 10 years to draw new state and federal legislative district maps. During his talk in the White House Rose Garden, Trump said, “Some states may want to draw state and local legislative districts, based upon the voter eligible population.” According to research, political maps based on the population of citizens alone would produce an electorate that would be far less diverse than the nation as a whole, and in the words of the late GOP strategist Thomas Hofeller, “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Keshia Morris, program associate with Common Cause. Here she talks about the Trump regime’s new effort to rig the electoral system and an Alabama federal lawsuit demanding that non-citizens not be counted for purposes of reapportionment and redistricting.  

KESHIA MORRIS: Late last week Trump issued an executive order, stating that, you know, they were giving up on adding a question on citizenship to the 2020 Census form, but they’re requiring all executive agencies provide citizenship data to the Department of Commerce and the Census Bureau so that citizenship data could be added in what’s called the P.L. 94-171 file, also called the Redistricting file that gets sent to the states after the census takes place. That data would likely be used at the request of mapmakers in the state to redistrict using citizen voting age population. So anyone that is not a citizen, anyone that’s under the age of 18 , we will likely see in 2021 after districting, unless you know some advocacy or court stops this ahead of this happening, we will likely see mapmakers trying to draw district lines at the state or even federal level that excludes noncitizens in those under the age of 18. That would dramatically change how our district lines are drawn right now. It will exclude millions of people from the representation process and Common Cause and other groups are working right now to, you know, make sure that people across the country are aware of this plot and are also advocating to their state legislatures to make sure that total population and no other citizen voting age data is used for the redistricting process.

BETWEEN THE LINES: So Keshia, who would be the winners and who would be the losers in a Trump-imagined system that you just laid out for us using only eligible voters to be counted when new district lines are drawn up?

KESHIA MORRIS: Well, you know, thanks to the work of litigators in the Common Cause v Lewis case, we know exactly who would benefit. Just a couple of weeks ago, we were able to obtain some documents by a gentleman named Thomas Hofeller. He was a GOP redistricting strategist that drew district lines in North Carolina and a number of other states, but in his files after he just passed away late last year, we were able to obtain files from a study that he did in 2015 that pretty much laid out who would win if citizen voting age population was used in redistricting In his words, redistricting based off the citizen voting age population would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites. So anyone that’s, that’s outside of, of those two labels would absolutely be the losers if this was to go forward.

BETWEEN THE LINES: So Keshia, what has the Supreme Court said about this quite radical plan to change the way states use population data to draw new legislative district lines, both statewide and federal?

KESHIA MORRIS: In 2016, in Evenwel v Abbott, the Supreme Court upheld the use of total population for state legislative districts and also congressional districts. However, they did leave open the possibility that citizen voting age population could be used if it was done.

BETWEEN THE LINES: And as I understand it, Keshia, there is a pending federal court case in Alabama that is trying to achieve that very goal in that state and of course that could spread to other Republican-controlled states all across the country if it succeeds in that federal court.

KESHIA MORRIS: Absolutely. A part of that lawsuit is also that only citizens should be counted in the census as well. But, yes, that is something that is proceeding currently. It was brought by Rep. Mo Brooks in Alabama and being fought actually by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and it is proceeding actually rather slowly. But yeah, we will see what happens because as I said at Common Cause, we are definitely advocating for the use of total population in drawing district line.

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