HUNTINGTON — West Virginia received formal notice this month it had lost its third congressional seat in the House of Representatives, according to the U.S. Census, but the Census Bureau is putting the state in a bind when it comes to redistricting.
The Census Bureau released initial data late last month from the 2020 decennial count, which determines House seats and the disbursement of $1.5 trillion in federal aid to communities, among other things. While the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, is required by law to deliver population data to the states by April 1, the bureau then pushed back the release of the redistricting data because of delays attributed to the coronavirus pandemic. The bureau now says it will be late August or September before the data is released, said West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner.
West Virginia and Ohio lost congressional seats and will need to redistrict. In 2018, West Virginia passed a law requiring the House of Delegates to be fragmented into 100 single-member districts during this year.
The delay is going to put West Virginia at risk of lawsuit, Warner said during a May 6 edit board meeting with The Herald-Dispatch.
Candidates must live in the district they plan to run in 2022 in by November 2021. However, without knowing the new district boundaries, it may be impossible for some to know whether they’re eligible before the deadline passes.
Ohio set its initial deadlines for drawing legislative and congressional and maps at Sept. 1 and Sept. 30, with several hearings preceding those dates, according to NBC.
Attorney General Dave Yost sued to get redistricting data from the Census Bureau by mid-August instead of waiting until Sept. 30, when the Census Bureau had estimated it would provide the detailed breakdowns for states. A federal appeals court this week sided with Ohio, after a lower court dismissed the lawsuit.
“Bringing this suit forced the U.S. Census Bureau to admit it can provide us the data sooner than originally stated — which has been our goal all along,” Yost said in a statement. “Now we are asking the court to hold them to their word.”
Warner said it’s frustrating because the Census Bureau has all the data; they just want to present it in a format.