The daughter of a deceased Republican gerrymandering expert says she believes her father intended for her to find a trove of documents that could shed unique light on how Republicans gerrymandered voting districts in North Carolina and across the country.
The woman, Stephanie Hofeller, 49, discovered four external hard drives and 18 thumb drives last year after her father, a well-known GOP gerrymandering expert, Thomas Hofeller, died. Stephanie Hofeller eventually turned over the files to lawyers for Common Cause, who are challenging gerrymandered maps in North Carolina.
Common Cause lawyers discovered what they say is explosive evidence in the files showing Thomas Hofeller played a role in getting the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Adding the question, which has not been asked since 1950, would ultimately benefit Republicans and whites, according to one of Thomas Hofeller’s documents. Separately lawyers say they discovered that North Carolina lawmakers lied to a federal court about the way it drew districts in 2017.
The Justice Department and North Carolina lawmakers respectively deny those claims.
Stephanie Hofeller said in an interview with HuffPost Thursday she believes her father, who had a reputation for carefully handling documents and emails, intended for her to find the files. She was estranged from her father, had not spoken with him since 2014, and learned of his death after putting his name into Google.
“He had years to delete those files,” she said. “Any day he could have plugged it into the computer and delete, delete, delete, delete. He also had many opportunities to put it in a place that I never would have had any access.” She added that her father usually clearly noted what was a work-related on her computer, but when Stephanie Hofeller looked through the hard drives she discovered several instances where work and personal files mingled together ― a sign she believes he wanted her to find them.
North Carolina lawmakers accused Stephanie Hofeller earlier this week of improperly obtaining the files, but both she and her attorney say the accusations are baseless. Stephanie Hofeller said Republicans were trying to embarrass and intimidate her by portraying her as a criminal.
“I must say I’ve been a little bit blown away by the boldness of it,” she said, referring to how misleading the attacks have been. “These people don’t have a speckle of honor.”
Stephanie Hofeller volunteered the files, she said, because she’s a “history geek” ― she wanted a way of preserving the documents so that people could learn and better understand how her father worked and the work product behind excessive partisan gerrymandering. Although Stephanie Hofeller believes one party shouldn’t control the redistricting process, she doesn’t affiliate with a political party (she said had a summer job at the Republican National Committee in the 1980s).
Stephanie Hofeller said she’s surprised at how quickly the documents have ballooned into a controversy — she hadn’t even seen the document at the citizenship question dispute — but she has no regrets about turning them over.
“I don’t have a belief system that involves covering things up,” she said.