According to a filing in Wake County Superior Court Thursday, North Carolina Republicans lied to a federal court in 2017 about needing more time to redraw legislative districts for a special election after the Supreme Court declared their old maps unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.

Those lies, in turn, prevented that special election from taking place and enabled state Republicans to maintain their supermajorities until the 2018 elections, which took place under new maps drawn by an independent special master and saw significant Democratic gains. During that period, the Republicans overturned twenty of Governor Cooper’s vetoes. (In February, a Superior Court judge struck down two constitutional amendments passed by voters in 2018, ruling that an illegitimate legislature had no right to place them on the ballot; the legislature has appealed.)

The motion—filed by attorneys with the advocacy group Common Cause and the N.C. Democratic Party, among others—asks a judge to direct state representative David Lewis, senior chairman of the House Select Committee on Redistricting, to stop seeking to “conceal evidence that is extraordinarily relevant” to an ongoing lawsuit involving whether the state’s legislative districts comprise unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders.

The plaintiffs, who have called the existing maps “the worst partisan gerrymanders in North Carolina history”—while Democrats overcame Republican supermajorities in 2018, the GOP still maintained large majorities while losing the statewide popular vote—are seeking to have new districts drawn ahead of the 2020 elections. This question will likely end up before the state Supreme Court, where Democrats hold a majority. 

Common Cause attorneys uncovered the alleged prevarication when reviewing the files of the late Republican strategist and mapmaker, Thomas Hofeller, who died on August 21 at his Raleigh home. The evidence is contained in four external hard drives and eighteen thumb drives that contain over seventy-five thousand files. The storage devices are now the property of Hoeller’s daughter, Stephanie Hoeller, who gave them to the attorneys after receiving a subpoena. 

The legislature’s attorneys, however, have tried to block the plaintiffs from accessing or using those files, according to the motion, arguing that the Common Cause lawyers obtained them improperly and that the files are privileged. The day after Common Cause “disclosed evidence of potential government misconduct” obtained from the files, Legislative Defendants … sent a letter to Plaintiffs’ counsel” that “purported to suddenly and unilaterally designate ‘the entirety’ of the Hofeller files as ‘Highly Confidential/Outside Attorney’s Eyes Only.’” This amounted to “a transparent effort to conceal evidence of wrongdoings,” the filing argues.

The motion says that in July 2017, Republican legislators lied when they convinced a federal court not to order special elections under new maps in 2017. 

The plaintiffs’ attorneys say the court’s decision was based on state GOP lawmakers’ “repeated statements that they had not yet started drawing new districts at all and needed sufficient time to develop criteria, draft the plans, and receive public input,” according to the motion. “The Hofeller files reveal that Dr. Hofeller had in fact already substantially completed drawing the 2017 plans in June 2017 before legislative defendants stated the process had even begun and a month and a half before the adopted criteria were even introduced and adopted” by the legislature.

The filing also alleges that Republican lawmakers “repeatedly” stated in court and during public hearings “that neither they nor Dr. Hoeller had any racial data on the new districts being developed,” and that “data regarding the race of voters … was not even loaded into the computer by the map drawer to construct the districts.”

But this wasn’t true, either, the motion says. In fact, Hofeller had detailed information on the racial characteristics of his proposed districts “in every one of his draft maps, including drafts prepared after he was formally retained by” the General Assembly (emphasis sic).

In other words, they lied. 

Lewis, a Republican from Harnett County, could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

However, he told The New York Times—which broke the story Thursday—that allegations were a “complete fabrication” and suggested that Hofeller was drawing new districts for his own amusement: “The legislative maps I presented in 2017 were drawn on a state computer using criteria adopted publicly by the redistricting committee. I had no input on or control of any play maps Dr. Hofeller may have drawn on his personal computer on his own time.”

On his Facebook page, Lewis said “[former attorney general] Eric Holder and far-left liberals are attacking my integrity.” He added: “This is a hit piece that only tells the Democratic Party/Common Cause’s side of the story. The story was clearly written before the Democratic Party/Common Cause submitted their court filing. Key facts, that were omitted in the story because it was planted by the Democratic Party/Common Cause, refute the ridiculous allegation made by the plaintiffs and parroted by the New York Times. Plaintiffs are resorting to outlandish hit pieces because they know their legal case is weak.”

Lewis also criticized Stephanie Hofeller for turning over her father’s files “to people who are suing against work he has done,” according to The News & Observer

Voila#ncpol #ncga

— Will Doran (@will_doran) June 6, 2019

Stephanie Hofeller told the Times that “she had come under pressure from allies of her father to keep the remaining content of the hard drives private. She declined to elaborate, beyond saying that the disclosure of the census-related documents had upset them. She said the pressure had only stiffened her resolve. ‘They’ve underestimated me,’ she said.”

This isn’t the only alleged chicanery the Hofeller files have revealed. 

They also allegedly showed that the Trump administration had lied about its rationale for trying to place a citizenship question on the 2020 census. The files showed that Holfeller had played a “substantial, previously undisclosed role in orchestrating the Department of Justice’s request to add a citizenship question,” a case headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Administration officials have argued that they wanted to add the question not to discourage Hispanic participation—and thus make the results of the census whiter and more Republican—but to protect minority voters under the Voting Rights Act. But according to a filing by the ACLU in the Southern District Court of New York last week, Hofeller had told DOJ officials that the question “would create a structural electoral advantage for … Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”

ACLU lawyers argued that an adviser to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and a senior DOJ official “obscured” Hofeller’s role in crafting the question through “affirmative misrepresentations. Specifically, new evidence shows that Dr. Hoeller concluded in a 2015 study that adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census ‘would clearly be a disadvantage to Democrats’ and advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”

The DOJ has disputed the ACLU’s claim that government attorneys relied on Hofeller’s unpublished memo when crafting the question, and says the ACLU is misrepresenting Hofeller’s study to make it sound that an attempt at discrimination. His study actually said it would be a disadvantage to Democrats if the census only counted the eligible voters, not every citizen, the DOJ’s response says. 

But Hofeller—whom The New York Times called the “Michaelangelo of the modern gerrymander” in his obituary—thought that, if the government added the citizenship question the census, the Supreme Court might be more amenable to such a change in how the population is counted, according to Common Cause

cc-lewis by on Scribd

Contact staff writer Thomasi McDonald at 

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2 replies on “Surprise! N.C. Republicans (Allegedly) Lied to a Federal Court About Redistricting”

  1. This is a thoughtful article detailing the political shenanigans that have played out for nearly a decade as regards NC Republicans’ efforts to marginalize voters via unconstitutional racial gerrymandering. And yet, in its coverage or Raleigh city politics, Indy Week of late is in such lockstep with one of the GOP’s redistricting attorneys that it’s as if there’s a coordinated effort among these parties against the most progressive city council members. But again, good job with this article; perhaps Mr. McDonald, a long-respected N&O reporter, can take a look at some of his Indy colleagues’…creative?…writing and detail how it is that Indy became the mouthpiece for the NC GOP gerrymanderers’ mouthpiece.

  2. Every day shows us more and more how the republican party is comprised of crooks and cons.

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