ACLU files notice to Supreme Court about new evidence on census citizenship question

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Thursday filed a notice to the Supreme Court of new evidence in the case against the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The filings were first made in federal court in New York earlier Thursday, revealing that late Republican redistricting specialist Thomas Hofeller had played a role in the creation of the question. It’s some of the strongest evidence to date rebuking the Trump administration’s arguments that the question is intended to help enforce the Voting Rights Act.

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The court filings state that Hofeller conducted a study in 2015 about potentially adding a citizenship question that found it would cause significant political damage to Latino communities and be “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”  

Now, the Supreme Court has been notified of that evidence as the justices prepare to issue their ruling on whether the question should be added to the decennial census.

Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued before the justices earlier this year that the Department of Justice (DOJ) had asked the Commerce Department to add the query back to the census in order to ensure it had accurate data in enforcing the Voting Rights Act.

But a group of 20 states led by New York, as well as a coalition of groups headed by the ACLU and House Democrats, claimed in court that asking the question would cause an inaccurate population count.

Census data is used for federal funding and drawing congressional districts.

It’s unclear what role this new evidence will play in the court’s decision, as the conservative majority appeared poised to allow the question’s addition to the census.

But it bolsters the argument that the addition of the question could have been politically motivated.

The letter filed in federal court in New York, and included in the ACLU’s notice to the Supreme Court, claims that the new evidence contradicts sworn statements made by Justice Department official John Gore and A. Mark Neuman, an expert adviser to Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossNOAA chief praises agency scientists after statement backing up Trump tweet Democrats ramp up calls to investigate NOAA Overnight Energy: House moves to block Trump drilling | House GOP rolls out proposal to counter offshore drilling ban | calls mount for NOAA probe MORE.

The filing claims that Neuman said that Hofeller was the “first person” to suggest the administration add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census.

And it states that Hofeller wrote some of a draft letter arguing for the addition of the question. That draft document was first written by Neuman, who then gave it to Gore, according to the letter filed Thursday.

“Based on this new evidence, it appears that both Neuman and Gore falsely testified about the genesis of DOJ’s request to Commerce in ways that obscured the pretextual character of the request,” the letter states.

The documents were uncovered as part of the group Common Cause’s separate partisan gerrymandering lawsuit in North Carolina.