Now that the Census Bureau has finally announced which states have gained or lost congressional seats, attention turns to the legislative bodies and commissions that will be drawing new maps for the next round of elections.
We already know the delayed data release is having an impact on states' abilities to meet their own deadlines for drawing new maps. It's only going to get more complicated as lawsuits are filed and more data becomes available.
Here are five stories you should read (or watch) to get up to speed (besides The Fulcrum's own reporting, of course).
Explainer: The proposals to keep Ohio's redistricting process on track (News 5 Cleveland)
New York Faces Likely Congressional Redistricting Fight After Latest U.S. Census (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)
- More states consider anti-gerrymandering efforts - The Fulcrum ›
- Arizona's redistricting panel faces a partisan intervention - The ... ›
- Report: How census delays may impact redistricting timelines - The ... ›
Hours after new redistricting data was released by the Census Bureau, lawsuits were filed Monday night to toss out expired election maps in three states.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who heads the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, and prominent Democratic voting rights lawyer Marc Elias filed the suits in federal and state courts on behalf of voters in Louisiana, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. They argue that population changes over the last decade have rendered the current maps unconstitutional.
Because these states have divided governments, it's likely that partisan disputes will prevent them from agreeing on new election maps in time for the 2022 midterms. The litigation was filed in anticipation of an impasse and with the hopes of expediting court-drawn maps.
Both Louisiana, with six congressional seats, and Pennsylvania, with 18 congressional seats, have Democratic governors and Republican-majority legislatures. Minnesota (eight congressional seats) has a Democratic governor and state House but a Republican state Senate.
Pennsylvania was the only state of the three to lose a House seat after the Census Bureau reported the new state population counts Monday afternoon.
Due to population shifts over the past decade, the lawsuits argue, the states' congressional maps have been rendered malapportioned and are therefore unconstitutional. The suits seek to prevent the states from using the current maps in any future elections. They also ask the courts to mandate the implementation of new maps that adhere to the "one person, one vote" constitutional requirement, in the event that the legislature and governor fail to agree on maps.
During a press call on Tuesday, Holder linked the GOP-led efforts across the country to roll back voting access to the partisan gerrymandering that will inevitably take place this year.
"What we're facing right now is a Republican Party that has shown that they're willing to bend or break the rules of democracy, simply to hold on to power," he said. "I have no doubt that the same Republican legislators who have pushed these bills will now try to use the redistricting process to illegitimately lock in power."
The goal of the litigation filed this week, Holder said, is to protect the integrity of the redistricting process and ensure fair maps and representation across the country.
Elias, who will be litigating the cases, said these redistricting lawsuits won't be the last filed this year. In addition to these three states, there are six more with divided governments and no independent redistricting commissions, so disagreements over election maps are likely to occur.
"We are prepared and ready to use every legal tool available to make sure that new maps do not unfairly treat voters," Elias said. "These lawsuits ensure that there is a backstop if and when the normal process breaks down or if there is a deadlock between the legislature and the governor which is more than likely going to be the case."
- States can't sue to speed redistricting, judge rules - The Fulcrum ›
- Partisan fight over Wisconsin's next maps gets a head start - The ... ›
- Eric Holder's group takes new aim at North Carolina map - The ... ›
Moore-Vissing is associate director for national engagement at Public Agenda, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to creating a stronger, more inclusive, more participatory democracy for everyone. This is the third in an occasional series.
The events of the past year — including the pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests and the insurrection in the Capitol — have shown our nation what happens when we don't address civic challenges or risk factors.
Similar to a dry forest that can become inflamed by a tiny spark, when we don't pay attention to threats to our civic health, one incident can set off a series of chain reactions. For instance, the public's lack of trust in government, which has been steadily declining for some time, has contributed to prolonging the pandemic in multiple ways, including people's unwillingness to wear facemasks or become vaccinated.
When our civic health is strong, communities are less polarized and people are physically healthier, safer and more resilient in times of crisis. Understanding what makes civic health function well or poorly is critical to supporting a strong and functioning democracy.
How do we measure civic health? Multiple factors facilitate healthy or unhealthy civic life – including whether people vote, talk with their neighbors and trust their government. Why are some communities close-knit, while in others people barely talk with each other? Or why do some communities react to crises well, with droves of people helping deal with tragedies or natural disasters, while others lack the "people power" and networks to respond effectively?
My organization explores how to measure these things. Similar to check-ups at the doctor's office, regular "civic health" assessments are essential. By collecting data in a geographic area, we can better understand civic assets, risk factors and what we can do about them.
The predominant way civic health is currently measured is using data from the Current Population Survey, a monthly Census Bureau poll of about 60,000 households. The National Conference on Citizenship currently works with states across the country to create "civic health indexes," pulling data summaries from the civic engagement and voting supplements of the survey.
But the Census Bureau data is limited in measuring civic health in three important ways.
It provides a state-level picture only, so it's not possible to compare what's happening in different parts of a single state. While the survey measures civic actions such as voting or volunteering, it doesn't gauge attitudes and feelings, such as trust in government or whether people feel they matter to others in their community. And while the poll asks about civic actions ("Do you read the news?") it doesn't provide information about the civic life in their community ("My local council gives me a meaningful say in decisions that affect me.")
Civic health outcomes are affected by a community's "civic infrastructure" – the laws, processes, institutions and associations that support opportunities for people to connect, solve problems, make decisions and celebrate community. This can include such diverse things as welcoming public spaces, grassroots groups like neighborhood associations and racial equity training for public officials.
We often incorporate this idea in our research. For example, we helped folks in six states by examining the local and state civic infrastructure before they started trying to improve civic health.
To get a more comprehensive assessment of civic health, several approaches can be taken.
Going beyond the census data may lead to deeper depictions of engagement. The Social Capital Community Benchmarks Survey, sponsored by three-dozen community foundations and used sporadically across the nation, measures trust, social connection and barriers to engagement. Other national surveys, such as the Pew Research Center's American Trends Panel, ask other valuable questions about civic life that could be included in other surveys.
Other state and national research may shed insight into how civic health affects certain populations or social issues, such as opioid use. For instance, the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Kids Count data and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey both provide information about youth experiences and civic health.
Plenty of tools allow citizens to share their own assessments. We have a Civic Engagement Scorecard for people to rate their local community's civic life in terms of participatory practice and transparency. Communities may also experiment with qualitative data collection, such as participatory action research or storytelling campaigns.
Once civic health data is collected, how can communities use it? Ideally, civic health outcomes should directly inform interventions to strengthen civic life. For instance, in our study last year of New Hampshire, we found Millennials lagged behind other generations in civic health outcomes. With one of the oldest populations of any state, New Hampshire's future depends on its ability to support young adults in participating in civic life. Now, the state is considering a variety of approaches to this challenge.
Other states have used civic health data to catalyze conversations about civic life. Connecticut created a statewide civic health advisory committee, which includes the secretary of the state, where leaders from different sectors discuss civic priorities. The Georgia Family Connection Partnership used civic health data to stimulate conversations in different counties about civic health programming and priorities.
The choices we make in the coming years, such as how to rebuild community after the pandemic, will have lasting effects on our society. We are staring into the face of unprecedented political polarization, with rising calls for white supremacy as well as intensifying movements for racial equity. At the same time, our population faces the challenge of reentering public life after more than a year of social isolation.
So there is no more urgent time to make informed choices about what actions will best support strong civic health.
- 2021 Civic Health Conference: The Business Case for Civic Health ... ›
- Our democracy demands an investment in civic education ›
- Kristin Hansen moves from Silicon Valley to civic ed - The Fulcrum ›
At this time in a normal redistricting year, states would already be drawing the lines for the next decade's election maps. But delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have upended many states' timelines.
The Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal public policy institute at New York University Law School, released a 27-page report Thursday providing a state-by-state assessment of how these delays could impact the redistricting process.
While the delays were necessary, the report notes that as of mid-April many states had yet to update their redistricting deadlines to account for a more compressed timeline. If adjustments aren't made, courts may need to step in and create temporary maps for upcoming elections.
The Census Bureau has said it expects to release apportionment counts by the end of April, untabulated redistricting data by mid-August and finally full population and demographic data by the end of September — months after the typical delivery dates.
These delays will most significantly impact New Jersey and Virginia, which hold legislative elections in odd-numbered years and the new redistricting maps will not be ready before the primaries in June or even the general elections in November.
Last year, New Jersey adopted a constitutional amendment to keep its current districts through this year's elections and draw new ones ahead of the 2023 elections. Virginia is likely to follow a similar plan.
While the upcoming statewide elections aren't a factor for the majority of the country, many states are facing strict constitutional or statutory redistricting deadlines. Twenty-two states have fixed dates for redistricting, meaning they will need to adjust their schedules to accommodate for later data delivery.
Thirteen other states have slightly more flexibility because their redistricting deadlines are tied to the reporting or publication of census data. This means these states' deadlines will automatically adjust to the later release date. However, the 13 states may need to call special legislative sessions to complete the redistricting process or make other election adjustments.
Five states have redistricting deadlines set for early next year, and the Brennan Center anticipates the data delays having little to no impact on those states' mapmaking timelines.
Eleven states have no set deadlines for redistricting, but may still need to consider election adjustments or schedule special sessions to complete redistricting in a timely manner.
In addition to census-related obligations, 10 states have requirements to hold public hearings or comment periods during the redistricting process that will also need to be factored into any schedule adjustments.
"If states do not make the adjustments necessary to complete redistricting in a timely fashion, courts will then need to step in and draw temporary maps to ensure that legally compliant districts are in place for upcoming elections — a power they have used in the past," the report notes.
- In most states, the redistricting rules remain the same - The Fulcrum ›
- South will be most vulnerable to gerrymandering, report says - The ... ›
- New Jersey may keep current legislative maps two extra years - The ... ›
- Five things to read today about redistricting - The Fulcrum ›