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Earlier census data release won’t affect Arizona redistricting

The U.S. Census Bureau will release the population data that states need for redistricting four days earlier than expected, but it won’t change the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission’s schedule for drawing new congressional and legislative maps.

The bureau announced last week that it will release the population data on Aug. 12, as opposed to Aug. 16, as previously scheduled. 

However, the change won’t make a difference for the AIRC, which recently adopted a schedule calling for the final approval of the new maps in late December.

“No difference. We’re doing our due diligence on our listening tour, and our schedule remains intact,” said Commissioner Erika Neuberg, the AIRC’s independent chair.

The commission just finished its 17-day, 15-stop “listening tour,” traveling the state to hear Arizonans’ thoughts and recommendations on what the new legislative and congressional districts should look like. The tour took the commission to Safford on Friday evening and to Tucson on Saturday and Sunday before ending with a final meeting in Mesa on Monday.

The commission has been active for months, hiring staff and soliciting input from Arizonans. But the release of the census data has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing the AIRC to begin its work later than its predecessor commissioners.

Once the AIRC obtains the new data, its first order of business will be to draw “grid maps” of equal population that don’t take into consideration any of the Arizona Constitution’s other redistricting criteria, such as respect for geographic and political boundaries, respect for communities of interest and adherence to the federal Voting Rights Act. After it adopts a grid map, the commission will then adjust the boundaries based on those criteria to draw nine new congressional districts and 30 new legislative districts.

The commission’s first meeting after the census data is released will be on Aug. 17.

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This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.

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