The 2020 Census Delay and Local Redistricting

Author: John McKenzie Published: February 2, 2021

The statutory deadline for the delivery of apportionment data for the 2020 census has passed, and we’re still waiting to hear exactly when the Census Bureau will release the data. That means local public agencies are still in the dark about redistricting deadlines. It does not mean, however, that they need to stand idly by while they wait.

Renne Public Law Group, a San Francisco-based public law firm, published a thorough investigation of what local public agencies can do to prepare for redistricting, despite census data unknowns. Though the information from RPLG is focused on California, its key points apply to public agencies in any state. Read on for an excerpt of the blog post, and if you need help deciphering how the census delay could impact your redistricting initiative, get in touch.

COVID-19, the Census Delay, and Local Redistricting: What Local Public Agencies Can Do to Prepare
By RPLG Senior Associate Ryan McGinley-Stempel and 2020 RPLG Public Law Fellow Michael Cohen

Local public agencies responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and grappling with its wide-ranging effects have yet another consideration to worry about: its impact on local redistricting deadlines.  The Census Bureau paused its decennial data collection operations across the country because of the virus, sacrificing critical time to gather the data that could affect hundreds of billions in federal funding and shift voting and trustee districts that shape the character of political representation and community services nationwide.  The delay will have a profound ripple effect on leadership at all levels of California government; officials must remain attentive to shifting deadlines and pending legislation that will dictate their responsibilities throughout the year.

Despite the potentially significant impact of the delay, many jurisdictions in the state remain unaware of how the census delay affects their redistricting obligations and deadlines. Although the California Legislature and the California Supreme Court appear poised to fix most of the potential issues arising from the census delay, there are a number of other actions that local agencies can take to prepare sooner rather than later.  In particular, officials of charter cities should consider whether any measures must be taken to extend redistricting deadlines (if any) set forth in their charters and ordinances.

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