Even as he waved a white flag on substance, Mr. Trump was still firing angry rhetorical shots.
“As shocking as it may be, far-left Democrats in our country are determined to conceal the number of illegal aliens in our midst,” he said. “They probably know the number is far greater, much higher than anyone would have ever believed before. Maybe that’s why they fight so hard. This is part of a broader left-wing effort to erode the rights of the American citizen and is very unfair to our country.”
But Mr. Trump’s critics relished the moment as an example of punctured hubris. Dale Ho, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement that Mr. Trump’s “attempt to weaponize the census ends not with a bang but a whimper.”
“He lost in the Supreme Court, which saw through his lie about needing the question for the Voting Rights Act,” said Mr. Ho, who argued the Supreme Court case. “It is clear he simply wanted to sow fear in immigrant communities and turbocharge Republican gerrymandering efforts by diluting the political influence of Latino communities.”
The end of the legal challenges over the census question, though, does not mean that the battle over citizenship is over. Using the data to redraw districts could change the balance of power in American politics.
Places with large numbers of residents who cannot vote — including children, noncitizens who are in the country legally, unauthorized immigrants and people disenfranchised after committing felonies — on the whole tend to be urban and to vote Democratic. Districts based on equal numbers of eligible voters would generally move political power away from cities and toward older and more homogeneous rural areas that tend to vote for Republicans.
Whether drawing districts based on equal numbers of eligible voters is permitted by the Constitution is an open question, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in her 2016 majority opinion in Evenwel v. Abbott.
“We need not and do not resolve whether, as Texas now argues, states may draw districts to equalize voter-eligible population rather than total population,” Justice Ginsburg wrote.