Delayed census data puts Idaho in redistricting time crunch
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The U.S. Census Bureau data that states rely on re-draw their legislative and congressional districts is delayed — and that could upend Idaho’s redistricting process.
Idaho state law requires the secretary of state to issue an order no sooner than June 1 the year after the census is completed to convene the state’s bipartisan redistricting commission, Boise State Public Radio reported. The commission then has 90 days to issue its final report.
But Census Bureau officials said states won’t receive the needed data until at least July 30. Historically, states get the data by March.
“This is a pretty major delay for something that all states are dealing with,” said Jaclyn Kettler, a Boise State University political science professor.
The U.S. Census Bureau encountered significant hurdles completing its work last year amid the coronavirus pandemic. Officials have already missed some legal deadlines to release census data to Congress. It is the first time the deadlines have been missed since the requirement was established in 1976.
Idaho Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck said newer software developed since the last redistricting effort in 2011 might help speed the commission’s work after it gets the data, “but that’s speculation at best.”
Houck said the secretary of state’s office is considering trying to change Idaho’s redistricting deadlines if needed. But nothing has been finalized yet, nor introduced at the state legislature, which would have to approve the plan.
The commission, made up of six people evenly appointed by Democrat and Republican officials, must hold meetings across the state and take public testimony and suggestions about district boundaries before completing its final report.