Tag Archives: West Virginia

Census Delays: Some Ramifications

By Jim Ellis

June 1, 2021 — As we know, the Census Bureau has delayed in meeting its public reporting deadlines, which causes ramifications in the political world. As a result, the state officials responsible for redistricting could well find themselves placed behind the proverbial eight ball as the new year approaches.

Reapportionment is the term used to explain the entire decennial process. Reapportionment, as the US Supreme Court defined it in their 1999 ruling on the US Census Bureau v. House of Representatives case, is basically divided into two parts. The first, which was finally completed and released on April 26, is the allocation of congressional seats to the states. The second is the re-drawing of congressional, state, and local district boundaries most often referred to as redistricting.

To complicate matters even further, the delayed allocation proved much different – affecting six seats to be exact – than predictions. It was believed for at least two years that Texas would gain three seats in the 2020 reapportionment and Florida two, with Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon adding one seat apiece. The actual numbers found Texas gaining two, Florida one, and Arizona none. The other one-seat gaining states were correctly predicted.

Conversely, Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia were all expected to lose one seat apiece. The actual report found Alabama, Minnesota, and Rhode Island each retaining the same number of seats they held in the 2010 reapportionment, while the others did lose a single district apiece.

The Census Bureau claims that COVID is largely responsible for their delays, but the state of Alabama, in their pending lawsuit against the federal statistical entity, disagrees. Alabama claims the deadline violations occurred because of the Bureau’s attempt to impose, for the first time in history, differential privacy over the data. This means, under the argument of protecting individual privacy, data would be deliberately scrambled, and certain information not publicly released.

Differential privacy alone would make redistricting extremely difficult for state map drawers because the released census tract numbers, now by definition, wouldn’t equal the state population figures brought forth earlier in the year. The effect would cause political havoc throughout the country. A court ruling on the Alabama case is expected shortly.

Because of a successful legal challenge from Ohio, the Census Bureau has agreed to make the data necessary for redistricting available to the states by Aug. 15 instead of the Oct. 1 date indicated when allocation was announced.

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Apportionment Surprises


By Jim Ellis

April 28, 2021 — In virtually every 10-year apportionment announcement at least one surprise occurs, but the census unveiling Monday contained multiple blockbusters.

For example, two states had their final number of congressional districts determined by less than 90 people. Reportedly, if New York had just had 89 more people, that would have saved an Empire State congressional seat. Minnesota becomes the beneficiary allowing the state to barely hold its eighth district.

Instead of 10 seats changing states as had been forecast, only seven, affecting 13 domains, switched. Perhaps the main reason for the lower number is the decade population growth rate. According to yesterday’s final report, the nation grew at only a 7.4 percent rate, the lowest since the 1930 census’s 7.3 percent. By contrast, the population increase from the 2010 total was 9.7 percent.

Pre-census projections, for better than a year, had been predicting that Texas would gain three seats, Florida two, and Arizona one. The analysts also estimated seat losses for Alabama, Minnesota, and Rhode Island. None of these projections proved accurate.

On the other hand, prognostications for the balance of the map were accurate. Texas, and Florida did gain, but two and one, respectively, instead of three and two seats. Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon each added one district apiece as expected. The one-seat losers were California, for the first time in history, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

It’s a bit too soon to determine which party will benefit the most from these numbers at the congressional level, though Republicans should be up slightly in the Electoral College for the next presidential campaign. Once we see how the population is distributed within the states will better tell us whether Democrats or Republicans will take the most advantage of the apportionment. This will depend upon how the population spreads through the cities, suburbs, and rural regions.

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More Redistricting Delays – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 20, 2021 — Yesterday, we covered the Census Bureau announcement that delivering new population data to the individual states will again be postponed, and what effect receiving numbers in October, if then, will have on the redistricting process.

Today, after previously analyzing the states that appear poised to gain seats, we look at those that will probably lose districts. At this point, estimates project that 10 seats will be transferred. This, however, is only a projection as the current published numbers do not include the final changes in the previous decade’s last year.

At this point, all of the succeeding states appear positioned to lose one seat. The individual state logistical data comes from a study that the Brennan Center for Justice just released.


Alabama

It appears that Alabama is on the cusp of losing a seat depending upon who is counted and where they reside. This specifically refers to college students and non-citizens. President Biden’s executive order countermanding President Trump’s directive not to count non-citizens may have an effect upon Alabama’s status. Officials there may sue over the apportionment if, in the final count, the state loses one of their seven districts.

It is likely that Alabama redistricting will be pushed into 2022 irrespective of the apportionment decision because the legislature will be out of session when the data is finally delivered. The state’s May 24 primary could conceivably be postponed.


California

For the first time in history, California is likely to lose a seat in apportionment. The 2010 apportionment cycle was the first in which the state did not gain representation. In the 1980 census, for example, California gained seven seats.

The Golden State has a redistricting commission, but the data postponement may force the process into a secondary mode since the redistricting completion deadline is Aug. 15. Unless the deadlines are changed, the state Supreme Court will appoint a special master to draw the map. California’s March 8, 2022 primary may have to be postponed, and almost assuredly their Dec. 10 candidate filing deadline will have to move.


Illinois

The state legislature has the redistricting pen, but Illinois also has a backup commission empowered in case the regular process is not completed. A March 15, 2022 primary and certainly a Nov. 29 candidate filing deadline, however, could and will face postponement.


Michigan

Voters previously adopted the institution of a 13-member commission to draw maps. The commissioners, now appointed, consist of four Democrats, four Republicans, and five unaffiliated voters.

With an April 1, 2022 candidate filing deadline and an Aug. 2 state primary, the Michigan system should have time to complete the redistricting process without changing their election cycle calendar.
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More Redistricting Delays – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 17, 2021 — The Census Bureau announced just before the Presidents’ Day holiday break that there will be yet another long delay in transmitting the census data to the states. Without the new numbers, redistricting becomes unachievable.

The new target date is Sept. 30, postponed from their first postponement date of July 30. At this point, the postponed apportionment release date remains April 30, long after the statutory deadline of Jan. 1. Apportionment is the first critical step in the redistricting process since this informs the states how many congressional seats they will be awarded for the current decade.

The late September target (and there’s no guarantee even this date will be met) will make it difficult for many states to finish their redistricting on time, and could force the process into the courts if state legislatures are unable to convene or meet a legislative calendar in terms of allowing public input. Even now, at least several states will have to enact emergency legislation to change deadlines to avoid violating pre-existing legal redistricting deadlines.

The delays have already changed the political situation in New Jersey and Virginia. With both states having odd-numbered year state legislative elections, the two are always the first to receive their new census data. In both states, legislative elections will now proceed under the 2011 maps with previously enacted amendments. When the lines are eventually completed, it is possible that new elections, possibly for 2022, will be ordered in Virginia. New Jersey voters passed a referendum in November that allows redistricting to occur before the 2023 state legislative elections.

Another problem could be lawsuits filed against the eventual apportionment. Apparently, the principal problem for the delays is exactly which people to count and where they are placed. College students, for example, are typically counted at the university campus on which they reside. Now, however, so many are not attending in-person classes. Therefore, arguments are ongoing as to where this group should be counted, either at school or back at their primary residence.

Additionally, one of President Biden’s new executive orders reversed Trump Administration policies about whether or not to count non-citizens. This change of direction has also created further delays.

Based upon these controversies, and others, it is probable that at least one potential losing state – apparently Alabama is on the cusp of losing a seat but may not depending upon the counting criteria – could sue over the apportionment conclusion meaning even further delays as various potential lawsuits wind their way through the judicial process toward final determination. All of this could conceivably mean redistricting is postponed until the 2024 election cycle.

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More Redistricting Delays

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 29, 2021 — The Census Bureau announced at mid-week yet another postponement in releasing the national apportionment figures, this time until April 30. Reapportionment should have been completed by Dec. 31, but the Bureau previously announced that March 6 would be the new release date due to COVID-related problems. Now, we see further delays.

Reapportionment is the process of creating a new census data algorithm in order to project the number of congressional seats each state will be awarded for the coming decade. It appears that 10-12 seats could change states, with the northeast and Midwest typically losing districts to southern and western states. This time, however, California, for the first time in history, is reversing their trend and appears headed for the losing list.

Once the apportionment numbers are known and the individual data dispersed, the states can begin the redistricting process. The Census Bureau further stated that individual states won’t be receiving their particular data necessary for redistricting until at least July 30. This will clearly set the redistricting cycle back significantly, which could cause major problems for the coming election cycle.

In the past, the Census Bureau has prioritized the states with early primaries to be first to receive their data. This meant that New Jersey and Virginia initially received their new population numbers ahead of the others because they have odd-numbered year state legislative elections. Texas and Illinois were next to receive since they traditionally schedule their regular primaries in March of the election year.

Knowing that the numbers would not be available for them in 2021, New Jersey and Virginia took preparatory action. Garden State officials placed a referendum on the November ballot asking voters for approval to postpone legislative redistricting until 2023. The measure passed.

The Old Dominion leaders decided they would run their 2021 state Delegate elections on the amended 2011 map but could conceivably call elections again for next year once they receive their updated data and can draw district boundaries. Virginia state senators do not stand for election until 2023, so it is unlikely the redistricting delay will affect those campaigns.

The data distribution and processing delay could place most legislatures in a conundrum. Most will be adjourned when the data is received, so special sessions will have to be called in most cases to complete the process prior to the 2022 candidate filing deadlines. This suggests that the states having redistricting commissions might prove to be in better position to complete the task because they won’t have to deal with legislative politics, priorities, or calendars, all of which result in a lengthy process.

Additionally, since almost every map is challenged in court, we could well see a plethora of lawsuits being filed late in the year that keep the redistricting process tied in figurative knots for months.

The states in the most difficult situations will be those gaining and losing congressional representation. Because the number of districts these particular states will have differ from their current allotments, they do not have the option of reverting to the current map once 2021 apportionment becomes final.

In the case of gainers and losers not having completed maps, we may see at-large races for the House. This would be particularly difficult for the losing states because we may see all members in the affected places having to run at-large for seats in their House delegations.

Unofficially, the gaining states appear to be Texas (3 seats), Florida (2), Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon. The losers may be New York (possibly 2 seats), Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. Reports suggest that the closest developing situation concerns whether Alabama loses a seat or New York drops two.

President Biden’s executive order that mandates non-citizens be counted in the census will certainly affect the final data projections and may be another reason for this latest delay.

The only certainty about 2021 reapportionment and redistricting is the many moving parts in these various states will likely produce surprising political results.