Documents contained on a series of flash drives left behind by deceased Republican elections expert Thomas Hofeller, who helped the North Carolina GOP craft one of the most aggressive gerrymandered maps in the entire country, suggest that Republican state lawmakers lied to a federal court and to the public in order to prevent a special election that could threaten the GOP’s supermajority in the General Assembly, writes Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern.
Common Cause, a voting rights group that has been fighting gerrymandering in the state and that recently obtained Hofeller’s files, say that the data contained within them contradict what lawmakers told a federal district court in 2016 in Covington v. North Carolina, which found the legislative maps illegally discriminated against voters by race.
The court was trying to decide whether to call special elections ahead of the regularly scheduled elections. Republicans claimed that this would be disruptive, because there was no time to draw the new maps to replace the old, illegal ones — and explicitly said that Hofeller had not drawn anything up yet, prompting the court not to order special elections. But Hofeller’s files suggest that he had already drawn up 97 percent of the new House map and 90 percent of the new Senate map by the time the court was deciding.
Even more damningly, Republicans may also have lied that their new map did not incorporate racial data. Common Cause says that the files show Hofeller explicitly included data on the black voting age population in each of the districts he was drawing up, suggesting that the new maps — the maps currently in force today — are still a racial gerrymander as well as a political one.
While the Supreme Court is busy considering the constitutionality of North Carolina’s congressional districts, Common Cause is filing a lawsuit in state court to throw out the new legislative districts. The evidence in Hofeller’s files is likely to strengthen their case.