Redistricting round-up: U.S. Census Bureau releases 2020 data necessary to begin the redistricting process (and other news)

Today’s redistricting round-up includes news from: 

  1. The U.S. Census Bureau was scheduled to release 2020 census data necessary for redistricting on Aug. 12
  2. Michigan, where an announcement about a potential legal counsel hire has drawn criticism
  3. New Jersey, where a congressional redistricting tiebreaker was chosen and the Secretary of State announced a date for the release of adjusted census data

U.S. Census Bureau releases 2020 data necessary to begin the redistricting process

The U.S. Census Bureau was scheduled to release 2020 census data on August 12, 2021. The data will include county-level demographic information on the ethnic, racial, and age makeup of neighborhoods across the country and will allow states to begin drawing district maps. The Bureau will release a complete tabulated version of the dataset on Sept. 30. In addition to drawing district maps, census data is also used by federal agencies and local governments in allocating funds and other planning and decision-making processes.

Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission announces it may hire Mark Braden and law firm BakerHostetler as legal counsel

On Aug. 6, the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission announced it was considering hiring Mark Braden and law firm BakerHostetler as legal counsel. Braden was formerly chief counsel to the Republican National Committee and defended North Carolina Republican legislators in litigation about the redrawing of North Carolina legislative districts in 2017. Critics said hiring the firm would compromise the independence of the committee. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) tweeted “Friendly reminder that Michigan’s Independent Redistricting Commission is just that – independent,” and anti-gerrymandering author David Daley said the firm was “infamous for advising and defending some of the most egregious GOP gerrymanders of the last decade.” Committee spokesperson Edward Woods III said BakerHostetler was the only firm to submit a proposal: “We sent out two requests for litigation counsel. Unfortunately, no one responded the first time, and they are the only firm that responded this time. As always, we welcome and consider public input in making our decisions openly and transparently,” Woods said.

For more information about the current redistricting cycle in Michigan, click here.

New Jersey Supreme Court selects congressional redistricting tiebreaker

On Aug. 6, a majority of the New Jersey Supreme Court voted to select John Wallace, a retired New Jersey Supreme Court justice, to act as a tiebreaker on the congressional redistricting commission. His selection came after the 12 members of the state Congressional Redistricting Commission (six Democrats and six Republicans) did not agree on a 13th member by the July 15, 2021, deadline, meaning the decision went to the seven-member New Jersey Supreme Court. The court had until Aug. 10 to pick a tiebreaker.

New Jersey Secretary of State establishes date for release of adjusted Census data

On Aug. 9, Secretary of State Tahesha Way (D) said that she would release adjusted Census data within seven days of the Census data release on Aug. 12 to all members of the redistricting commissions and the public concurrently. Her announcement came after Republican leaders of New Jersey’s redistricting commissions submitted a request for clarification regarding the data.

On Jan. 21, 2020, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed S758 into law, which requires the Secretary of State to use Department of Corrections data to count incarcerated individuals at their last known residential address for the purposes of legislative redistricting, rather than the location of their incarceration at the time of the census. Legislative Apportionment Commission Republican Chairman Al Barlas and Congressional Redistricting Commission GOP Chairman Doug Steinhardt said in their request to Way that the Census Bureau’s use of differential privacy in the 2020 census would produce data inconsistent with DOC data, since “this statistical technique deliberately manipulates census data to assertedly protect the confidentiality of respondents by introducing ‘statistical noise; into both population totals and demographic characteristics.” In Way’s response, she said her office would be “guided by the duties set forth under the law concerning the reallocation of incarcerated individuals whether their previous address is known or unknown.”

For more information about the current redistricting cycle in New Jersey, click here.

Additional reading:

Redistricting in Michigan after the 2020 census

Redistricting in New Jersey after the 2020 census