Another delay in critical census data threatens redistricting

Illustration by VlatkoRadovic | iStock/Getty Images Plus

By Jeremy Duda | Arizona Mirror

A newly announced delay in the census data states rely on to draw new congressional and legislative districts seems certain to push back the work of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which could leave Arizonans and the candidates they’ll be voting for waiting until after the new year to find out what districts they’ll be in.

Officials at the U.S. Census Bureau officials say the population data that states need for redistricting isn’t expected to be available until late September. This marks the second delay in releasing the data, which officials last month said wouldn’t be ready until at least July 30. The data was originally supposed to be ready for states by the beginning of April.

Federal law requires the Census Bureau to have that information ready by March 31. But the COVID-19 pandemic and interference by the Trump administration have now pushed back that deadline twice.

“That’s a problem for the state,” said David Mehl, a Republican member of the redistricting commission. 

The previous delay would have likely pushed back the redistricting commission’s work slightly, but still left it on pace to approve its final maps along the same timeline as its predecessor a decade ago. The new delay, however, could be far more problematic.

In 2011, the last AIRC approved its initial “grid maps,” the starting point mandated by the Arizona Constitution for the district maps it will eventually draw, in mid-August. Its predecessor in 2001 completed its grid maps in mid-July.

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