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Timeline for Releasing Redistricting Data

February 12, 2021
written By James Whitehorne, Chief of the Redistricting and Voting Rights Data Office

If this were a typical decade, we would be on the verge of delivering the first round of redistricting data from the 2020 Census. Our original plan was to deliver the data in state groupings starting Feb. 18, 2021 and finishing by March 31, 2021.  

However, COVID-19 delayed census operations significantly. Consistent with previous census, we are focusing first on our constitutional obligation to deliver the state population counts for apportionment to the President. As we announced last week, the deadline for this work is April 30, 2021. This focus on meeting our constitutional obligation has delayed some of the processing activities necessary to generate the redistricting counts.   We expect to deliver the redistricting data to the states and the public by Sept. 30, 2021. 

Now that we have finalized the schedule for completing the apportionment counts (by April 30), we have been able to finalize a schedule for the redistricting data.  

Delivering by September 30

This data delivery will be a single national delivery, rather than our originally-planned staggered delivery of redistricting data.  

This national delivery allows us to:

  • Ensure we are delivering the high-quality fit-for-use data products the states need for redistricting. 
  • Complete delivery to all states several weeks earlier than the last states would have otherwise received it.
  •  Better manage the production process.

We are acutely aware of the difficulties that this delayed delivery of the redistricting data will cause some states. Some states have statutory or even state constitutional deadlines and processes that they will have to address due to this delay.

The decision to have a single national delivery ensures that the Census Bureau can provide accurate, high quality, and fit-for-use data in the least total amount of time to all states.

Following our thorough and complete process provides the best assurance to the states that these data meet the quality standards they expect and require to underpin their important decisions. 

Support for the States

In the meantime, I am happy to say, we have delivered the 2020 Census Redistricting Data Geographic Support Products to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. As of this morning, Feb. 12, 2021, we published the final sets of geographic data to census.gov for the public as well.

State and local governments use these products in their redistricting efforts. The products contain newly created 2020 Census blocks and updated block groups, census tracts, voting districts, and current boundaries for legal governments and school districts referenced to Jan. 1, 2020.

The law (Public Law 94-171) that governs our work on producing redistricting data directs us to allow the states the opportunity to identify the small area geography and tabulations they need to do their redistricting work.

Over the past few years, we worked through non-partisan liaisons in each state to identify these geographic areas by:

  •  Providing customized open source software for exchanging geographic data.
  • Allowing states to suggest updates to multiple types of geography.
  • Creating prototype census blocks to help them visualize how the 2020 Census blocks would appear if the geography for their state was left unchanged.
  • Providing an additional review period of several months in which they could finalize their geographic updates.

Using the information that each state provided, we have now delivered geographic information in formats that will help them plug in the actual 2020 Census data and do their work of redrawing district boundaries. And as we announced today, we will provide those quality data to the states by Sept. 30, 2021.

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