Delayed census data may push back work of state redistricting commission

Published: Feb. 8, 2021 at 6:00 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — In January, the U.S Census Bureau announced data from last year’s census will arrive at states even later than expected, and that could impact Virginia’s legislative lines in the upcoming election.

Last year, voters in the Commonwealth approved a Constitutional Amendment to create a redistricting commission, made up of Virginia’s General Assembly members and citizens.

The purpose of the group was to help redraw legislative districts based on maps created by a district expert. The lines themselves would be created based on data from the census.

According to a U.S. Census meeting with the National Conference of State Legislators, that information was meant to be made available by April 1, but may not be released before July 31, due to delays from natural disasters last year and the coronavirus.

This would mean information would not be delivered until weeks after the state’s June primaries. Political experts say this delay would only affect the House of Delegates election.

Dr. Robert Roberts, a political science professor at JMU, said if the data is delayed furthermore, Virginia legislators may vote to keep the current districts the way they are.

“If you exhaust all the procedures here and it goes to the state supreme court, you may not get your final maps until early September,” Roberts said. “Then if you get your maps in early September, do people want to run in districts that they’ve never run in before?”

Roberts said another possibility is if legislators run under the current map, another special election could be held in 2022 under the newly redrawn lines.

He said it will likely be up to the Virginia Supreme Court on how this plays out.

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