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Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley roots against gerrymander he helped engineer

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Reformers are hoping that by taking up both cases, each targeting a different party, the Supreme Court is preparing to, for the first time, set real restrictions on partisan gerrymandering.

For O’Malley, who ran for president in 2016, that would be well worth losing the map he helped draw and the one extra congressional seat Democrats gained from it.

“Our country and our democracy is not served well by partisan redistricting,” O’Malley said in a recent interview. “And if this is one of the ways we make progress for our republic, we’re glad to be a part of it.”

O’Malley was deposed by the plaintiffs in the Maryland case, who were stunned when he immediately copped to drawing the maps with partisan intent and told them he was rooting for their cause.

“I said, ‘Good luck, I hope you’re successful,'” O’Malley said of his deposition. “They scheduled me for four hours and I think we were done in, including the break, like 40 minutes.”

Currently, racial gerrymandering is prohibited, but it’s perfectly legal to draw legislative districts in a way that favors one party and punishes another.

That helps explain how states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina, which vote roughly 50-50 in presidential elections, end up with lopsided congressional delegations where Republicans outnumber Democrats almost 3 to 1.

Today, gerrymandering is virtually synonymous with Republican gerrymandering, but that’s mainly because the 2010 Tea Party wave election put the GOP in power just as states were engaging in their decennial redistricting process.

Democrats gerrymander, too, as Maryland shows, just not nearly to the extent Republicans have.

“I did everything in my power to draw a map that would be more favorable to the election of a Democratic congressional delegation,” O’Malley said. “In 2010, many of us in Maryland felt an obligation to push back against rank, extreme, Republican gerrymandering that was going on in many states across the United states.”

He compared it to the way Democrats use super PACs, even though the party ultimately wants to do away with them.

Of course, it’s relatively easy for O’Malley to speak out now, since he’s out office and doesn’t have to worry about protecting incumbents in the state capital.

In Annapolis, meanwhile, Democrats have defended their map and blocked attempts by Maryland’s current governor, Republican Larry Hogan, to advance the kinds of redistricting reforms that Democrats champion in other (often Republican-controlled) states.

“For three years, my administration has proposed reforms to create a nonpartisan system for drawing district lines. But legislators are content with the broken status quo, in which elected officials pick their constituents. Voters deserve better,” Hogan wrote in a recent op-ed in The Washington Post.

When the president of the Maryland Senate, a Democrat, gave his own deposition in the case, he plead ignorance.

“Did partisan factors play a role in the Maryland Senate consideration of the 2011 congressional map?” the lawyers asked.

The state Senate leader replied, “I don’t believe so.”

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House Republicans vote to elevate Rep. Elise Stefanik

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Internal document reveals Trump admin strategies to omit undocumented immigrants from census

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Census officials in the Trump administration prepared a briefing for then-Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross last August on several strategies to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 Census, according to an internal document obtained through a public record request by the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center and provided to NBC News.

This is the first public disclosure that Trump administration officials tried to find ways to carve out the country’s undocumented population from being counted in the census after then-President Donald Trump signed a directive with that aim last July.

The order directed Ross, whose agency oversees the census, to provide the president with data about the number of people who are undocumented so that when census officials presented Trump with the final count, he could exclude them. The census is required by the Constitution to be done every 10 years and is used to determine how many members of Congress each state gets in the House of Representatives. The data is also used to calculate local governments’ share of $1.5 trillion in many federal programs.

The internal briefing memo includes a strategic analysis on three options that the Census Bureau under Trump considered using to carry out the administration’s plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from the count.

There is no indication the plan was executed. Last September, a federal court blocked Trump’s order and President Joe Biden reversed the directive soon after taking office. Biden also blocked another Trump directive that the bureau collect citizenship information about every U.S. resident using administrative records, which came after the Supreme Court nixed the Trump administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the census questionnaire.

Jade Ford, an attorney for the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group, said the memo reveals not only the unlawful ways the administration attempted to carry out the plan, but also that they most likely would have produced deeply flawed data.

“This didn’t end up happening, but it’s still important because future administrations could try to do this again,” Ford said. “This was all part of that plan to really radically shift power between states by excluding undocumented immigrants from the count.”

Trump officials knew that the data would be inaccurate because each strategy in the document had “pros” and “cons” for each strategy, and one option would flout Supreme Court precedent, Ford said.

For instance, one option they considered was counting every person in ICE detention facilities and affiliated parts of county jails to determine the number of undocumented immigrants in the country, and then exclude those individuals from a jurisdiction’s enumeration. However, Ford said this would have been a wildly inaccurate way to try to estimate the undocumented immigrant population because some people in ICE detention facilities are ultimately found to be in the country lawfully.

The memo itself acknowledges this issue in the “cons” section by suggesting that it would have to be assumed “that either all prisoners living in the detention centers are here illegally or some proportion.” It also acknowledged that the number of undocumented immigrants in the facilities would be on the “lower-end” of “actually illegal people.”

Another option would have relied on data from the American Community Survey, known as the “long-form” census, which collects demographic data annually from roughly 3 percent of households in the U.S. However, in 1999 the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Census Bureau’s proposed uses of statistical sampling, such as the methods used on the ACS, to calculate the population for purposes of congressional apportionment. In addition, the Census Act prohibits the agency from using sampling methods to determine apportionment.

The memo simply lists this option as a “con.”

Another option considered was using federal administrative data from other agencies, which the agency has long used to make estimates, but not for purposes of excluding undocumented immigrants. The internal document claims this option would have found “a larger number of illegal immigrants” but also noted the number of undocumented immigrants in administration records is “likely to be low.”

“It just shows the lengths they were willing to go to potentially do this and willingly face legal challenges,” Ford said.

When asked for comment, a Census Bureau spokesperson pointed to the agency’s January statement. It said the agency would implement Biden’s executive order, which directs the agency “not to include information on citizenship or immigration status.”

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Proud Boys formed smaller group for Jan. 6, prosecutors say

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WASHINGTON — The far-right Proud Boys designated a small group of members to plan and carry out their activities at the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to newly filed court documents that provide additional information about the group’s inner workings.

But investigators have yet to establish who formulated the plan to storm the Capitol grounds and enter the building.

In late December, prosecutors said, Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio announced the creation of a special chapter within the organization, calling it the Ministry of Self Defense. Its members included Tarrio and four men since charged with conspiracy in the Capitol siege — Ethan Nordean of Washington state, Joseph Biggs of Florida, Zachary Rehl of Pennsylvania, and Charles Donohoe of North Carolina.

The Ministry of Self-Defense subgroup “was not to have any interaction with other Proud Boys” coming to Washington on Jan. 6, prosecutors said.

The FBI previously said Biggs messaged, “We have a plan,” the night before the riot, but court documents have not said what that plan was.

Biggs was accused of leading Proud Boys members on Jan. 6 from the Washington Monument to the Capitol, where one of their followers was accused of breaking a window, allowing hundreds more people to stream in.

The new information comes from material the FBI said it found on Nordean’s cellphone, including thousands of encrypted messages exchanged through the Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram platforms, the court documents said.

In the latest filing, prosecutors said messages exchanged around the time of the riot “revealed a plan to storm the Capitol and to let the crowd loose.”

However, the messages offered in support of that allegation are more general and do not refer to a specific plan. One person texted, “I want to see thousands of normies burn that city to ash today.” Another said, “I will settle with seeing them smash some pigs to dust.”

Donohoe texted, “I’m leaving with a crew of about 15 at 0830 to hoof it to the monument no colors,” an apparent reference to the Washington Monument and an earlier agreement that Proud Boys members would not wear their usual distinctive clothing.

Two weeks after the Capitol riot, the messages said, Nordean had lost his devotion to Donald Trump. The court documents said he sent a series of messages that read, “F— you trump you left us on the battle field bloody and alone.”

Lawyers for Nordean and Biggs have asked a federal appeals court to reverse a lower court ruling that ordered the two men held in jail pending trial.

“They are not accused of assaulting or harming anyone that day,” the appeal said. “They did not threaten or bully anyone. They carried no weapons. They did not steal.”



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