Florida’s redistricting process will have to wait—U.S. Census Bureau blames pandemic for delay in data release

2020 Census Form – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Tada Images

Florida’s population continues to shoot up as the COVID-19 pandemic forges forward in 2021. Because Florida is a “fully-open” state, many families, businesses, and remote working individuals from lesser opened states have made the move down to the Sunshine State in search of new opportunities, lack of state income tax, favorable climate, and ease of operation and leisure during the pandemic.

As a result of surging population numbers in the state, the U.S. Census Bureau is in charge of releasing pertinent data detailing the mobilization of state population numbers to assist lawmakers in the reformatting of legislative and congressional boundaries. 

However, that data is delayed. Late last week, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that the data Florida lawmakers need for redrawing the boundaries within the state will not be delivered until September.

James Whitehorne, chief of Redistricting and Voting Rights Data Office at the Census Bureau, wrote in a blog post that due to COVID-19 delays, the data publishing was forced to be pushed back.

Initially, the bureau had planned to begin delivering census data to the states on Feb 12. and finish the distribution by March 31. The data is now slated to be released to all the states at one time by the end of September. 

“We are acutely aware of the difficulties that this delayed delivery of the redistricting data will cause some states. Some states have statutory or even state constitutional deadlines and processes that they will have to address due to this delay,” wrote Whitehorne. “The decision to have a single national delivery ensures that the Census Bureau can provide accurate, high quality, and fit-for-use data in the least total amount of time to all states.”

Considering the population boom that Florida has seen over the past few years, pre-Covid, the Sunshine State is expected to receive an additional two congressional seats at the minimum upon the release of the census data. The increase would bring the current count of 27 congressional seats to 29. After the 2010 census data was released, Florida saw its congressional seats rise by two from 25.

Currently, Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor), and Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby), have not decided who will fill the redistricting committees. However, Sprowls has appointed Rep. Tom Leek (R-Ormond Beach) to chair the House’s reapportionment process. The position is filled once every 10 years.    

The redrawn districts are expected to be in place just in time for the 2022 elections.

Are you interested in Florida’s government? For stories like this and much more: Florida Insider is dedicated to educating, entertaining, and informing its readers about everything Florida. Easy to read content at the palm of your hands and covering the stories that matter.