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The daughter of late GOP gerrymandering mastermind just put all of his files online in a Google Drive for anyone to read.
Thomas Hofeller, who died in 2018, was crucial to the Republican Party’s redistricting efforts across the country: He drew up tons of maps that the party used to make districts easier for them to win — sometimes at the expense of minorities’ voting rights. In an effort to defend their state’s political map in a lawsuit, Republicans had tried to keep Hofeller’s files secret.
But on Sunday, his daughter, Stephanie, who identifies as an anarchist, tweeted them out. She’d announced her plans to release the files last month and has now made them public on a website: thehofellerfiles.com, which links to a Google Drive full of his emails and documents related to his gerrymandering work.
(Thomas pronounced the word “gerrymander” with a hard “G,” in honor of the former U.S. Vice President Elbridge Gerry, who pioneered the practice in Massachusetts in 1812.)
“These are matters that concern the people and their franchise and their access to resources. This is, therefore, the property of the people,” Stephanie told NPR. “I won't be satisfied that we the people have found everything until we the people have had a look at it in its entirety.”
It’s not clear yet what new information the files contain — many of Hofeller’s files have already been made public through court filings and news reports. Another document Stephanie previously released upended a Supreme Court fight surrounding the Trump administration’s move to add a citizenship question to the Census.
The administration’s official explanation was that the question would be used to enforce the Voting Rights Act, but one of Hofeller’s unpublished studies from 2015 found that said that adding the question “would be advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”
Based on that discrepancy in rationale, the justices blocked the Trump administration from including the question, and the Census Bureau announced in August that it wouldn’t ask about citizenship status in 2020.
Stephanie had been estranged from her dad for several years before his death — they’d gotten into a fight over the custody of her children that made its way to court. She only found out he’d died by googling him on a whim six weeks after his death to find his obituary in the New York Times.
Needless to say, Stephanie still doesn’t think very highly of her dad.
About a week after she found out about her father’s death, she went to his home to collect his belongings. She found a plastic bag full of hard drives and USB sticks, which contained a mix of personal photos and files related to his political work.
She wound up turning the drives over to Common Cause, a government watchdog non-profit that focuses on government accountability. The files were then used as evidence in a case in North Carolina that Common Cause won in September that argued that the state had drawn its district illegally to favor Republicans.
Hofeller, for his part, is likely rolling over in his grave. He was secretive about his documents, and knew full well that they could undermine his work.
“Emails are the tool of the devil,” one of the training slides on in the trove of files reads. “Treat every statement and document as if it was going to appear on the FRONT PAGE of your local newspaper.”
Cover image: In this Aug. 13, 2001, file frame from video provided by C-SPAN, Tom Hofeller speaks during an event at the Republican National Committee in Washington. Hofeller, a mastermind of GOP redistricting preached keeping electronic records secure. But after his death in 2018, his own files found their way to the heart of lawsuits over a U.S. census question on citizenship and North Carolina’s legislative redistricting. (C-SPAN via AP)