ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On the heels of the Census, redistricting, or the redrawing of Congressional districts occur. With delays in 2020 Census operations due to the coronavirus, there is a fear among New York lawmakers and political organizations that census information won’t be available in time to meet redistricting timelines.

In a joint N.Y. Senate and Assembly public hearing held online Wednesday, political groups voiced their concerns over whether the timeline was going to be feasible with anticipated delays in the completion of 2020 Census data. The Census Bureau has requested an additional 120 days to get final counts to the Federal Government by the end of July 2021.

If the counts were delayed until July, New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) says it would be difficult for New York to complete its redistricting map in accordance with constitutional law.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Census cannot get its count of the American population fully conducted and has asked the Congress to allow it to delay submitting its population data to the states until July of next year – months later than normal.  Getting the census data late will make it extremely difficult for the commission to meet its state constitutional deadlines,” NYPIRG says on its website.

The 2020 Census Redistricting Data Program provides states the opportunity to delineate voting districts and to suggest census block boundaries for use in the 2020 Census redistricting data tabulations (Public Law 94-171 Redistricting Data File). In addition, the Redistricting Data Program will periodically collect state legislative and congressional district boundaries if they are changed by the states. The program is also responsible for the effective delivery of the 2020 Census P.L. 94-171 Redistricting Data prior to April 1st, 2021, one year from census day. The program ensures continued dialogue with the states in regard to 2020 Census planning, thereby allowing states ample time for their planning, response, and participation. 

The 2020 Census Redistricting Data Program is affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. In order to ensure the health and safety of the American public and Census Bureau employees and to ensure the completeness and accuracy of the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau has sought 120 calendar days of statutory relief from Congress to deliver apportionment counts to the President by April 30, 2021, and deliver P.L. 94-171 redistricting data tabulations to the states no later than July 31, 2021.

“If Congress moves the deadline for the Census Bureau to deliver detailed redistricting data to the State from April 1, 2021, to July 31, 2021, the Redistricting Commission will have five months to analyze the data, hold hearings, and develop a plan to present to the legislature by January 2022, condensing a process that was expected to take up to nine months,” says New York Law School Senior Fellow Jeffrey Wice.

The League of Women Voters of New York State also recognizes the challenges saying, “The legislature could not have predicted a global pandemic would delay the final census counts, but regardless of these unforeseen circumstances the release of final proposed maps must be addressed. The League believes that this issue can, if need be, addressed through statute and does not require any constitutional change.”

On Tuesday, the New York State Comptroller’s Office released Census response rates statewide by county. N.Y. is currently ranking 38 nationwide with a response rate of 57.6%. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is encouraging New Yorkers to complete Census surveys saying the state “is in danger of being undercounted.”