Speaking from the Grave

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On June 7, 2019, The New York Times reported on an unusual voting rights case.

The background facts are that a leading Republican voting strategist, Thomas Hofeller, died last August.  Hofeller was considered a mastermind of gerrymandering and other machinations that ensure that Republicans stay in control.  Hofeller was hired by Republicans in North Carolina to craft a redistricting plan.  North Carolina was then sued in federal court over its redistricting.  The gerrymandered map was ruled unconstitutional, but when the case was heard, North Carolina Republicans told the federal court that there was insufficient time to draw new maps.  Based upon this premise, the federal court allowed the gerrymandered map to stand another year.  As expected, Republicans stayed in control with veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate.  According to the New York Times, “Republicans used that extra time to, among other things, try to tilt the state judiciary rightward, remap elected judge’s districts in the state’s largest county, and tweak election rules for the state Supreme Court.  They restructured the State Board of Elections to dilute the influence of Roy Cooper, the state’s Democratic governor.  And they tacked six proposed constitutional amendments on last November’s ballot…”

Hofeller had an estranged daughter. After his death, Hofeller’s daughter discovered that her father’s computer held more than 75,000 files, including files which prove Republicans lied to the federal court about their preparedness and ability to create new election maps in time for the next election and refuted the Republican assertion that race had played no part in constructing their gerrymandered maps.  In fact, every proposed map on Hofeller’s computer was scored for race.

Also stored on Hofeller’s computer are files which reveal his collaboration with the Trump administration on adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, a move which experts say will definitely cause an undercount in the census because undocumented residents won’t respond. 

Needless to say, North Carolina Republicans denied the accusations, put on their best righteous indignation faces, and promptly contended that the documents were “highly confidential” and could not legally be made public.  As is almost always the sure “tell” that someone has been caught red-handed, Republicans accused Democrats of “stooping to a new low” by using “electronic files from a dead man’s computer.”

 In the age of computers, the Internet and the Cloud, it may be harder than we think to take a secret to the grave.