John Gore, the Trump Justice Department official who leads the Civil Rights Division, told Congress Friday that the department has “no position” on whether number of citizens should play a role in how congressional districts are apportioned.
He was responding to a question at a House Oversight Committee hearing from Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL), who asked whether knowing the number of citizenships should play a role in apportionment. Gore was behind the Justice Department request to add a citizenship question to the next Census.
“That’s a very important question. It’s a very important issue. It’s not one that the Department of Justice takes a position on,” Gore said. He added that the request was driven by enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, “not the separate question of how congressional seats are apportioned across the Constitution.”
The Constitution says that U.S. congressional districts should be drawn using total population. But some believe it’s an open question whether states can exclude non-citizens in drawing state legislative districts. Republicans in Missouri are already pushing to put such a requirement on November’s ballot.
Excluding non-citizens from redistricting stands to shift political power away from urban areas and other places with disproportionately high immigrant populations.
The Trump administration’s move to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census — which Gore was behind — could encourage more states to try to draw districts based on citizenship rather than total population, both critics and proponents of such an approach believe.
Gore was in front of the committee Friday for a hearing on the census.