Redistricting data may be ready a month early, in old format

States under pressure to redraw congressional and legislature districts but facing a delay in the release of the needed data may be able to get the numbers in an outdated format in August.

Posted: Mar 18, 2021 4:10 PM

States under pressure to redraw congressional and legislature districts but facing a delay in the release of the needed data may be able to get the numbers in an outdated format in August, more than a month earlier than the planned date for their official release, a U.S. Census Bureau official said Thursday.

The redistricting data will be available in mid-to-late August, but they will be in an older data format that may be difficult for some states to work with since they require extra steps to be taken to make them usable, Al Fontenot, the bureau's associate director of decennial census programs, told a Census Bureau advisory committee.

The Census Bureau recently announced that the deadline for releasing the redistricting data would be pushed back from the end of March, the date required by law, to the end of September because of delays caused by the pandemic.

The states of Ohio and Alabama promptly sued the statistical agency, saying the delay would undermine their ability to redraw districts. The Alabama lawsuit also challenged a new method being used by the Census Bureau for the first time for protecting participants’ privacy, which the state argues produces faulty numbers.

The delay in releasing the redistricting data has sent states scrambling to come up with alternative plans because many will not get the data until after their legal deadlines for drawing new districts, requiring them to either rewrite laws or ask courts to allow them a free pass because of the delay. Candidates may not know yet whether they will live in the district they want to run in by the filing deadline. In some cases, if fights over new maps drag into the new year, primaries may have to be delayed.

The availability of the redistricting data in the outdated format in August was first disclosed last week in a statement by a Census Bureau official in the Ohio lawsuit. The data officially released to the states in September will be on DVDs and flash drives with a software tool that makes it easy for browsing through the data, Fontenot told the Census Scientific Advisory Committee.

The data ready in the outdated format in August will need to be imported into a database. Relationships then will need to be established between files, and users will need to pull a subset of files to look at a specific geography.

“Given the difficulty in using data in this format, any state using this data would have to accept responsibility for how they process these files, whether correctly or incorrectly," James Whitehorne, the bureau's chief of the Census Redistricting and Voting Rights Data Office, said in the court filing in the Ohio lawsuit.

The Census Bureau is planning to release apportionment figures, the state population counts used for determining how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets, by the end of April. One of the reasons the extra time was needed for the redistricting data is that the Census Bureau originally had prioritized tasks to get the apportionment numbers finished, pushing back work on the redistricting data, Fontenot said.

Despite the challenges of the 2020 census — the pandemic, hurricanes and wildfires — the Census Bureau hasn't uncovered anything so far to suggest that the data “will not be fit for its constitutional and statutory purposes," Fontenot told the advisory committee made up of demographers, computer scientists and geographers.

The Census Bureau is working with outside experts to evaluate the quality of the 2020 census data given the challenges, and two statistical programmers have begun analyzing the data, the American Statistical Association said Thursday.

Although some anomalies have been found during the processing of the census data, that's normal based on past experience, and they allow statisticians to fix potential errors, said Michael Thieme, an assistant director for Decennial Census Programs at the bureau.

“We haven’t found anything that has been impossible to fix," Thieme said.

A saving grace of the 2020 census was new technology, said Ron Jarmin acting Census Bureau director.

This was the first decennial census in which most respondents were given the opportunity to answer the census questionnaire online, and census takers who visited the homes of those who hadn't responded were able to log answers into their iPhones.

“Right now, from my advantage point, everything looks pretty good," Jarmin told the advisory committee.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 308111

Reported Deaths: 7122
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20826248
Hinds19910411
Harrison17510302
Rankin13334276
Jackson13118243
Madison9908210
Lee9871170
Jones8297160
Forrest7525147
Lauderdale7198237
Lowndes6272144
Lamar611084
Lafayette6039117
Washington5281133
Bolivar4772129
Oktibbeha455897
Panola4445103
Pearl River4428141
Warren4284118
Marshall4276100
Pontotoc416972
Monroe4061132
Union403975
Neshoba3994176
Lincoln3871109
Hancock372885
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329589
Tate322782
Pike3188104
Scott310872
Yazoo304468
Alcorn298065
Itawamba297177
Copiah293265
Coahoma289778
Simpson288284
Tippah284868
Prentiss275759
Marion266079
Leake261373
Wayne261341
Grenada255384
Covington254780
Adams246082
Newton245161
George238147
Winston225981
Tishomingo222267
Jasper219748
Attala213473
Chickasaw205057
Holmes186872
Clay182854
Stone179331
Clarke177076
Tallahatchie175540
Calhoun163531
Yalobusha159236
Smith158834
Walthall130643
Greene129433
Lawrence126423
Noxubee126233
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120926
Amite120141
Webster113532
Jefferson Davis105432
Tunica102725
Claiborne101330
Benton97325
Kemper95428
Humphreys94332
Franklin82123
Quitman78916
Choctaw73417
Wilkinson64928
Jefferson64828
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 520503

Reported Deaths: 10722
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson754091487
Mobile38938798
Madison33898495
Tuscaloosa25297443
Montgomery23992567
Shelby23124239
Baldwin20652300
Lee15541165
Calhoun14301311
Morgan14145270
Etowah13665346
Marshall11967219
Houston10381278
Elmore10001200
Limestone9822147
Cullman9481188
St. Clair9435234
Lauderdale9223227
DeKalb8748181
Talladega8071171
Walker7100275
Jackson6762110
Autauga6734103
Blount6497135
Colbert6210130
Coffee5404112
Dale4766110
Russell429038
Franklin419982
Chilton4087109
Covington4056114
Tallapoosa3898146
Escambia388574
Dallas3531149
Chambers3503122
Clarke346560
Marion3066100
Pike305876
Lawrence295395
Winston272572
Bibb256459
Marengo248661
Geneva245875
Pickens233059
Barbour225255
Hale218775
Butler212566
Fayette209260
Henry187744
Cherokee182144
Randolph176941
Monroe172040
Washington164238
Macon154848
Clay149555
Crenshaw149257
Cleburne146241
Lamar139334
Lowndes136553
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109128
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99328
Greene91034
Choctaw58724
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