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Census

William Barr, left, and Donald Trump

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After a two-year legal battle by former President Donald Trump and his administration to keep emails and memos hidden about the attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, the House Oversight and Reform Committee released the documents Wednesday.

NPR reports that the newly discovered information shows a secret plan by Trump and his team to try to keep undocumented immigrants from being counted in the 2020 census.

Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, who chairs the House oversight committee, said in a statement: "Today's Committee memo pulls back the curtain on this shameful conduct and shows clearly how the Trump administration secretly tried to manipulate the census for political gain while lying to the public and Congress about their goals. … It is clear that legislative reforms are needed to prevent any future illegal or unconstitutional efforts to interfere with the census and chip away at our democracy."

Thanks to a 2019 Supreme Court ruling, Trump’s hopes of adding the question “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” to the census came crashing down.

The Trump administration had attempted to use the Voting Rights Act (VRA) as cover, with the unfounded claim that “legal arguments that the Founding Fathers intended for the apportionment count to be based on legal inhabitants.”

The new report by the House Committee should help the House protect the next census in 2030 with its efforts to pass HR 8326, the Ensuring a Fair and Accurate Census Act.

"[HR 8326] basically moves to make sure that the census is fair and accurate, that it is removed from political influence and that the decisions made are made on science and not politics," Maloney explained to NPR.

One of the key players behind adding the citizenship question to the census was former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversaw the Census Bureau.

Ross seemed to be hellbent on adding it to the form. But like all things in the Trump world, adding this particular question was unprecedented. Since the nation’s first count in 1790, based on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, all Americans—citizens and noncitizens—have been counted on the form.

During his testimony in Congress, Ross alleged that the plan to add the question was based “solely” on a letter from the Department of Justice (DOJ) asking for more information on citizenship that would be used to protect racial and language minorities and enforce the VRA. However, as NPR reports, Ross was the person who initiated the DOJ’s need for more data.

“Sec. Ross has reviewed concerns and thinks DOJ would have a legitimate use of data for VRA purposes,” former Commerce Department attorney James Uthmeier wrote to John Gore, a Trump appointee at the DOJ.

In fact, an email written on September 17 from Uthmeier to Earl Comstock, another Trump appointee, indicated a need to keep their nefarious plan secret.

“Ultimately, everyone is in agreement with our approach to move slowly, carefully, and deliberately so as to not expose us to litigation risk,” Uthmeier wrote.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

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It's a redistricting year in the blue state of Illinois, which means that Republicans are getting less consideration than a missionary on the Las Vegas Strip. Democrats have been winning in the Land of Lincoln for a long while, controlling the state House for all but two of the past 38 years. But they see no harm in running up the score.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker campaigned on a vow to take reapportionment away from politicians and turn it over to an independent commission. But that didn't happen, and when the General Assembly sent him district maps that exemplified partisan gerrymandering, he signed them into law.

"Make no mistake, these maps were drawn solely for the Democrats to maintain their political power in the state of Illinois," House Minority Leader Jim Durkin said. Democrats outnumber Republicans 73-45 in the state House, and those numbers are likely to grow more lopsided.

Similar things are going on in New York, where Democrats have plotted new district lines with the goal of cutting the GOP's eight members of Congress to four or even three of the 26 seats the state will have. That's less than 16 percent of the seats in a state where 38 percent of voters went for Donald Trump. New York's Republican Party chair Nick Langworthy said the redistricting "is a political sham built on a foundation of lies and hypocrisy."

Shams are the norm in this process, where lawmakers celebrate the glories of democracy while scheming to make elections an empty formality. Democrats in blue states are more than willing to ignore their good-government allies to cement their control in state legislatures — and to keep Nancy Pelosi in the speaker's chair.

After losing out on Maryland's last congressional map, Republicans took the fight to the Supreme Court, arguing that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. (The court disagreed.) So you might think that Republicans would be determined to put an end to partisan reapportionment. But hypocrisy is a two-way street.

Today, the GOP has control of the governor's office and the legislature in 23 states, compared to 15 such "trifectas" for Democrats. Such dominance is never more valuable than in a redistricting year, giving those in power the chance to supersize their advantage for a full decade.

Political scientists Alex Keena, Michael Latner, Anthony McGann and Charles Anthony Smith wrote in The Washington Post, "We found that, after 2011, 45 state legislative maps had been drawn with extreme partisan gerrymandering. Of these, 43 favor Republicans, while only two help Democrats. Because of these gerrymandered maps, Republicans held onto power after losing the statewide popular vote in Virginia in 2017, and in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in 2018."

That explains why Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has no interest in a Democratic bill that would make it impossible to tilt the playing field. The For the People Act would require states to hand over redistricting to independent commissions. With that reform, incumbents would no longer get to tailor their constituencies to achieve permanent tenure.

It would not prevent either party from winning most legislative or congressional seats in a particular state. Such bodies already draw maps in several states, including Arizona, where the GOP has held a majority in both houses of the legislature since 2003, and California, where Democrats have done the same since 1997.

In most places, the issue is not which party will dominate. It's just by how much.

Besides, no one objects when a party getting a majority of the votes wins a majority of seats. Objections are in order, though, when the party getting a minority of the votes wins a majority of seats. Last year, Democratic candidates for Congress got 43 percent of the votes cast in South Carolina — but only one of the seven House seats, or 14 percent.

A federal solution is needed because at the state level, no party in power wants to cede control of redistricting. Democrats say they can't afford to unilaterally disarm in the battle for power, and Republicans show no interest in mutual renunciation of gerrymandering.

But in the long run, a fairer system would be a good thing for both parties. It would give each more opportunities to compete and more incentive to stay in tune with the preferences of those they represent.

It would be best of all for the voters, many of whom have been effectively rendered powerless. Democracy is supposed to rest on the consent of the governed, not the governors.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com