Thomas Hofeller

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Thomas Brooks Hofeller (April 1943 – August 26, 2018)[1] was a Republican political strategist primarily known for his involvement in gerrymandering electoral district maps favorable for Republicans.[2][3] According to the New York Times, Hofeller's "mastery of redistricting strategy helped propel the Republican Party from underdog to the dominant force in state legislatures and the House of Representatives."[4]

Early life[edit]

Hofeller was born in April 1943 in San Diego, California.[4] He served in the Navy during the Vietnam War.[4]

He majored in Political Science and earned a PhD in Government, both at Claremont McKenna College.[4][3]

Career[edit]

In the 1980s, he was behind a strategy to increase Republican power in the South by using the 1965 Voting Rights Act to create more majority-black districts and thus pack African-Americans into fewer districts and make it easier for Republican candidates to win the remaining white districts.[4] According to the New York Times, Hofeller's views on skewed maps appeared to be motivated by a desire to strengthen Republican power; during the 1980s, Hofeller opposed Democratic maps that were skewed in favor of Democrats, but later became an advocate for similar maps skewed to favor Republicans.[4]

Hofeller played a key part in gerrymandering notoriously lopsided maps, such as those in North Carolina (turning a 7-to-6 seat Democratic edge in the House to a 10-to-3 Republican edge) and Pennsylvania.[4] He once said, "Redistricting is like an election in reverse. It’s a great event. Usually the voters get to pick the politicians. In redistricting, the politicians get to pick the voters.[1]

From June 2009 to August 2018, Hofeller earned just over $2 million from the Republican National Committee.[5] From January 2017 to July 2018, he was paid $422,000.[5]

After death[edit]

After his death, his daughter made available hard drives that had been in Hofeller's possession.[6] Files on the hard drives showed that he played a key part in the decision of the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, which at the time was being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Department of Commerce v. New York. Hofeller had conducted a study in 2015 which found that adding such a question would make it possible to draw district boundaries that "would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites." Hofeller himself wrote the portion of the Department of Justice letter used to justify why the Trump administration had made this decision. The letter claimed that adding the citizenship question was necessary to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act.[2] The New York Times described the files as "the most explicit evidence to date that the Trump administration added the question to the 2020 census to advance Republican Party interests."[2]

Personal life[edit]

Hofeller was married to Kathleen Hofeller. They had a daughter. Hofeller died in 2018 in his Raleigh, North Carolina home at the age of 75.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Blest, Paul (August 20, 2018). "Thomas Hofeller Was a Pioneer in Racial Gerrymandering". Splinter News. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Wines, Michael (May 30, 2019). "Deceased G.O.P. Strategist's Hard Drives Reveal New Details on the Census Citizenship Question". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  3. ^ a b March, Mary Tyler (August 18, 2018). "Pioneer of modern redistricting dies at 75". TheHill. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Wines, Michael (August 21, 2018). "Thomas Hofeller, Republican Master of Political Maps, Dies at 75". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "The GOP paid millions to the gerrymandering expert behind the census citizenship question". Mother Jones. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
  6. ^ Parks, Miles (June 6, 2019). "Redistricting Guru's Hard Drives Could Mean Legal, Political Woes For GOP". NPR News. Retrieved June 9, 2019.