Hans von Spakovsky — a former member of President Trump’s voter fraud commission known for overhyping claims of mass voter fraud — is encouraging states to move forward with an anti-immigrant, GOP-friendly redistricting overhaul, using citizenship data the Census Bureau is planning to produce.
In an interview posted Friday, von Spakovsky acknowledged that such a change to redistricting would “probably” benefit Republicans. But he claimed that legislators should consider it because the current approach of using total population for redistricting is “fundamentally unfair” to citizens.
Von Spakovsky filmed the interview with American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization that provides Republicans with blueprint legislation and in the past has pushed voter ID bills and other voter restrictions.
The group held a conference last week in Austin.
“One of the recommendations I made to [state legislators] is that they use citizen population when they’re drawing lines,” von Spakovsky said.
He and other conservative advocates have for years pushed for states to draw their legislative maps to create districts that are equal in the number of citizens, rather than equalized based on total population, which is now nearly universally done. Doing so would shift political representation away from more immigrant-friendly parts of the country, in favor of whiter, more Republican communities.
The Supreme Court in 2016 rejected the argument that use of total population was unconstitutional, but did not decide whether a citizenship-based metric would also be permissible.
It was long believed that a redistricting overhaul was the real reason the Trump administration sought to add a citizenship question to the census. When President Trump announced he was backing down from that legal fight, he said that the government would assemble citizenship data from existing records and — sure enough — helping states switch to a citizenship-based metric of redistricting was a reason he gave for doing so.
“So legislators will have the ability to use citizen population when they’re drawing boundaries,” von Spakovsky said.
Thomas Hofeller, a now deceased GOP gerrymandering expert who first raised the citizenship question idea to the incoming Trump administration, studied the effect of the proposed overhaul in 2015 and concluded that it “would be advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”
If a state does take Trump and von Spakovsky up on the idea, the move will almost certainly be challenged in court.
Already some GOP-led legislatures are considering trying to make the change.
Missouri Republicans have twice sought unsuccessfully to change their constitution to move to citizen-based redistricting and are expected to try again next year.