A deadline for turning in data used for redrawing state and local legislative districts would be extended until the end of September under legislation introduced Friday by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators.
A senior U.S. Census Bureau official had previously said the redistricting data would be available no earlier than the end of July, causing headaches for state lawmakers and redistricting commissions facing deadlines to redraw state legislative districts this year.
The new deadline in the legislation introduced by Democrat U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Republican U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both from Alaska, suggests that deadline will be pushed back by another two months.
Before the pandemic, the deadline for finishing the redistricting data had been March 31.
The legislation also sets an April 30 deadline for turning in the apportionment figures used for divvying up congressional seats among the states. The Census Bureau had previously announced that date as its goal for handing in those state population counts.
The once-a-decade census is used to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets. It also is used for redrawing state and local political districts and determining the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year.
The deadline for turning in the apportionment numbers used for congressional seats has been a moving, and litigated, target since the coronavirus pandemic upended the Census Bureau’s head count of every U.S. resident. The numbers were supposed to be turned in at the end of last year, but the Census Bureau requested until the end of April after the virus outbreak caused the bureau to suspend operations.
Bureau officials say they need the extra time to fix not-unexpected irregularities found in the data.
The lawmakers introduced similar legislation last year but it never went anywhere in the Republican-controlled Senate after identical legislation passed the Democrat-controlled House. By then, the Trump administration had switched back to a Dec. 31 deadline for finishing the apportionment data after President Donald Trump issued a directive seeking to exclude people in the U.S. illegally from the numbers used for divvying up congressional seats.
President Joe Biden rescinded Trump’s order on his first day taking office last month. Control of the Senate also is now evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to provide a deciding vote for the Democrats.
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