CSAC Bulletin Article

Redistricting Conversations Continue as Counties Scramble to Cope with Delays

April 8, 2021

Every 10 years the federal government conducts the Census, a count of all those residing in the United States. In a normal year, the counting, also known as enumeration, for most states would begin in March and be completed by July. However, as we all know 2020 was not a “normal” year, and right as the survey was being distributed to households across the country, COVID-19 was spreading rapidly. This, paired with political complications at the Census Bureau, caused massive delays in the process leading enumeration to extend into the fall.

Traditionally, the Census Bureau delivers a report with the data determining congressional apportionment by December 31, followed by detailed data sufficient for redistricting delivered by April 1 of the year following the Census. This year, however, the Bureau has announced that redistricting data will not be available until mid-September, at the earliest. The delay has led to a very tight timeline to complete local redistricting this cycle, particularly for local agencies with June elections. As such, CSAC has been working closely with the Legislature, county registrars, redistricting advocates, and other local government organizations to find solutions.

The vehicle for these solutions is Senator Glazer’s SB 594, which is an urgency bill, meaning it will take effect as soon as it is passed. Conversations on exactly what big-picture solutions will be included in the bill have yielded considerable progress, but are ongoing. However, the bill currently contains language to clarify that the deadline for “adopting” maps in current law means the date an ordinance or resolution is passed by the local government, not its effective date.

In addition, Senator Glazer requested a formal legislative counsel opinion on this question.

The issue stems from an interpretation by some local governments that the deadline in current law to “adopt” districts refers to the effective date of an ordinance or resolution, which is generally 30 days after passage. Such an interpretation would effectively cut 30 days out of the redistricting timeline, which would be difficult for many local governments to achieve and would reduce opportunities for public participation. This week the legislative counsel concluded that the deadline in current law to “adopt” district maps refers to the date a resolution or ordinance is passed, not its effective date. This is great news for counties, and CSAC will continue to engage in all conversations on redistricting solutions. 

If you are interested in learning more about the redistricting process, CSAC and the Rural County Representatives of California are hosting a webinar on the topic on April 16. You can register for the webinar here.

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