The Census Bureau says the timeline for releasing the redistricting data to the states is now Sept. 30. That’s months later than the April 30 final deadline.
Usually, the data comes by February after the prior census has closed. A delay of this sort has major ramifications for elections in 2022.
The data the states await are the actual locations of respondents to the 2020 Census, including the demographic information down to the various block or “tract.” The data tells how many humans live in an area, their demographic information, such as race, ethnicity, age, and more. States use that information to redraw their political boundaries every 10 years in a process called “reapportionment” or “redistricting.”
Redrawing political boundaries is a political process fraught with partisan peril and lawsuits, but must be done in time for the 2022 midterm elections.
Some states have constitutionally mandated deadlines for completing their redistricting work. Alaska is one of those: The redistricting board must complete its draft map of the new districts in Alaska within 30 days, then hold hearings, and issue the final plan no later than 90 days after receiving the data from the federal Census Bureau.
At this point, it puts Alaska’s final map publication into the end of December of this year.
After the redistricting board issues the final map, the lawsuits generally begin from left-leaning groups that want a map that favors their political party. This lawsuit pattern holds true in Alaska and nearly all other states where Republicans are in the majority.
The other complicating factor is that candidates who want to run for office in next year’s legislative races can file for office as early as May of this year. Candidates in some districts that are certainly subject to changing boundaries, (for instance in Southeast Alaska or the Mat-Su Valley,) could find they are in a different district than the one they originally filed for, pitting themself against a candidate they did not intend to challenge.
“We are acutely aware of the difficulties that this delayed delivery of the redistricting data will cause some states. Some states have statutory or even state constitutional deadlines and processes that they will have to address due to this delay,” the U.S. Census Bureau noted.
The lawsuit phase of redistricting is always the wild card. The federal court has always thrown out Alaska’s first attempt at a district in the past, making the board redraw the map with what are usually items that bring more voters to Democrat candidates.
The redistricting board is led by Chairman John Binkley, with Budd Simpson, Melanie Bahnke, Nicole Borromeo, and Bethany Marcum as board members. The board hired Peter Torkelson as executive director and TJ Presley as deputy director.