Common Cause Asks Court to Release the Secret Files of the GOP Gerrymandering Mastermind

Today Common Cause and other leading civil rights and transparency advocates asked North Carolina’s Wake County Superior Court to publicly release hundreds of thousands of documents created by the late Thomas Hofeller, the Republican strategist responsible for many of the most controversial GOP gerrymanders of the last decade. 

The Hofeller files were put under a protective order until Sept. 18 so the political consulting firm that Hofeller co-founded could indicate which documents they believed were confidential. The firm, Geographic Strategies, “squandered the opportunity, according to today’s filings by Common Cause, which is seeking the release of all but 950 of the files. 

Rather than designate documents over which the company can demonstrate a proprietary interest, Geographic Strategies has taken a sweeping, blanket approach to claim ownership and confidentiality over virtually every substantive document in the Hofeller files. As a result of this blunderbuss approach, Geographic Strategies tagged more than 160,000 documents over which Geographic Strategies has no conceivable claim of any ownership interest based on its own representations, both in the prior briefing and in its August 30 brief,” the filing stated. 

Some egregious examples include: 

  • Geographic Strategies tagged all 35 of the Hofeller files that Plaintiffs’ experts relied upon in the public trial of Common Cause v. Lewis, which resulted in an order for new legislative maps  
  • Geographic Strategies tagged all of the documents that were publicly filed with federal courts in the census citizenship litigation, which resulted in the citizenship question being removed from the census 
  • Geographic Strategies tagged over 38,000 records from Dr. Hofeller’s redistricting and other work in North Carolina this decade, even though this Court has already determined that most, if not all, of these materials are public records under North Carolina law 
  • Geographic Strategies tagged over 37,000 documents relating to Dr. Hofeller’s personal work in numerous jurisdictions—namely Virginia, Missouri, Arizona, Nassau County (New York), Nueces County (Texas), Galveston County (Texas) 
  • Geographic Strategies tagged 34,855 documents that pre-date the company’s existence.

Supporting documents seeking public release of the documents were filed by the ACLU, American Oversight, MALDEF together with AAJC, NAACP, The New York Times Company together with the Associated Press, a coalition of seven Texas organizations, and four U.S. Senators.  

Dr. Hofeller’s files have immense public significance and value,” said Kathay Feng, national redistricting director for Common Cause. They contain evidence that will be vital to voting rights litigation in North Carolina and across the country. They should be released for the good of our democracy.” 

Read the court files here.