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Delay in Census data could push back Arizona redistricting work

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission likely won’t be able to start drawing new district lines until August thanks to a delay in data from the 2020 Census.

Kathleen Styles, an official with the U.S. Census Bureau, said on Wednesday during a presentation to the National Conference of State Legislatures that the data states and local government entities will need for redistricting won’t be ready until at least the end of July, the Associated Press and others reported.

“You should not expect it prior to July 30,” Styles said, according to NPR.

The apportionment data that determines how many congressional states each state has was initially expected by the end of 2020, but the Census Bureau paused its work last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The census concluded in October, but the bureau usually takes about five months to process the data.

The Census Bureau doesn’t expect to have the data used to determine congressional apportionment until April 30, meaning it could be three months until Arizona learns whether it will get the 10th congressional seat it expects to gain from the census. Federal law sets a Dec. 31 deadline for that data, which the Census Bureau missed due to the pandemic and late changes the Trump administration made to the process.

It’s unclear what effect the delay will have on the work of the newly seated Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. In 2011, the last commission spent months hiring staff and legal counsel, and didn’t select a mapping consultant until late June. The commission did not schedule hearings to take public testimony on district lines until mid-July, and unveiled its first “grid maps” — the constitutionally mandated starting point for congressional and legislative districts — in the middle of August.

The AIRC earlier this month chose its fifth and final member. The panel was created by Arizona voters in 2000.

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.

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Congressional districts in the state of Arizona, reflecting district boundaries current to the 113th United States Congress.