Image from Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission
A judge in North Carolina lifted a confidentiality order on a trove of digital files from a deceased Republican strategist that includes thousands of documents pertaining to the last round of redistricting in Arizona.
So far, there are no plans to make them public. It is unclear exactly what information the documents contain.
Judge Vince Rozier, Jr., of Wake County Superior Court in North Carolina, on Monday lifted his previous confidentiality order, which he issued in a lawsuit over a controversial redistricting plan in that state.
At the heart of the issue are more than a quarter million digital files made by Thomas Hofeller, a Republican operative and redistricting guru known for creating heavily gerrymandered districts. Hofeller’s estranged daughter found the files after his 2018 death and turned them over to Common Cause, an advocacy group that focuses on money in politics, ethics and election and voting issues, which sued over gerrymandered legislative districts in North Carolina that Hofeller helped draw.
An examination of the documents uncovered a 2015 analysis by Hofeller stating that adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 U.S. Census could aid Republicans in redistricting by excluding non-citizens. Common Cause’s attorneys in the North Carolina redistricting case are also representing the plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to block the Trump administration from adding the question, which critics worry could lead immigrants to be undercounted by deterring them from participating in the census.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June the U.S. Department of Commerce can’t add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
Hofeller also served as a redistricting consultant for the Republican National Committee in the 2011-12 redistricting cycle. In that capacity, he testified on behalf of Republican plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit in 2013 alleging that the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission gerrymandered legislative districts to help Democrats.
Rozier lifted a protective order on about 108,000 of Hofeller’s files, including 12,237 “related to Arizona which reflect work performed by Dr. Hofeller in his individual capacity.” Hofeller’s old consulting firm, Geographic Strategies, claimed ownership of many files that Hofeller created outside his work for the company but that became part of its data library.
The judge is seeking more information over another 135,000 files that Geographic Strategies claims ownership over. It is unclear whether any of those files are related to Arizona.
It is also unclear whether the documents will ever become open to the public.
“There is no immediate plan for us to release the documents broadly. We are working with our attorneys to ensure we are good stewards of the documents,” Common Cause spokesman David Vance said in an email to the Arizona Mirror.
If the documents do become public, it’s unlikely that they’ll shed any light on the decision-making that went into Arizona’s current legislative and congressional districts. Democrats controlled the 2011-12 redistricting process in Arizona and Republicans had little input into the process. In an affidavit that Hofeller filed as part of the federal lawsuit over the legislative districts, he wrote that he had been “intensely involved” in that cycle of redistricting in Alabama, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia, though he listed Arizona one of the 26 states in which he’d “drafted and analyzed plans.”
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