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Photo by Michael Sauers.

Legislative redistricting delay certain after census announces further data hold ups

Less-specific figures used for apportioning House seats won’t come until at least Feb. 9

By Nikita Biryukov, January 05 2021 1:06 pm

The delay of New Jersey’s legislative redistricting was drawn into certainty Monday after a federal deputy attorney general said less-discrete data used to apportion House seats wouldn’t be available until at least Feb. 9.

Under a constitutional amendment voters approved in November, the state won’t redraw legislative district lines until 2023 if the state doesn’t receive census data by Feb. 15, and it now appears certain that New Jersey won’t have the data in time.

It’s possible the house reapportionment figures will be delayed even further as Census Bureau officials work to remedy unspecified anomalies.

Though it is not required to do so, the bureau typically provides counts early to New Jersey and Virginia, which hold state elections in odd-numbered years, when there are usually no federal candidates on the ballot.

But the Census Bureau’s counts and data processing have both seen months-long delays spurred by the pandemic.

Opponents of the amendment — they included good government groups like the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and the state branch of the League of Women Voters, among others — warned that keeping old districts in place would disenfranchise New Jersey’s Asian and Latino voters.

Those are the state’s fastest growing demographic groups, having added roughly 400,000 residents over the last decade. Those groups are already underrepresented in the legislature.

Asian Americans, for instance, account for just under a tenth of the state’s population, but they hold only two seats in the legislature, one in each chamber.

But with the amendment passed, those arguments are largely moot, and state-level incumbents who wish to seek re-election will do so with their districts unchanged.

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