What is happening with the 2020 Census?

Like most things last year, the pandemic had a profound effect on the census process. All census field operations were suspended last March, which pushed the deadline for counting from July 31 to Oct. 15, a delay of two and a half months.

The 2020 apportionment figures, according to the U.S. Census Commission website, are normally delivered to the President on Dec. 31 of the census year.  This year, they have been delayed until April 30. Redistricting data, originally planned to be delivered to the states by March 31, 2021, will not be available until Sept. 30, 2021, a delay of six months.

Every 10 years, all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives are divided up among the 50 states based upon the updated census. Some states gain seats and some lose. This process is known as Congressional Apportionment and is the constitutional basis for conducting the decennial census.

For example, the last census (2010) resulted in the State of Indiana, with nine congressional representatives, being among 31 states who maintained their same number of seats. That same year, our neighbors, Illinois and Michigan, each lost one seat, and Ohio lost two. Texas gained four seats, Florida two, and six other states gained one seat each. Eleven other states lost one or two seats each. Indiana previously lost one seat in 1980 and again in 2000.

The in-depth history of Congressional Apportionment is fascinating but far beyond today's discussion.

Census data is also used to redistrict federal, state and local legislative district boundaries every 10 years. Article I, Section 4 of the United States Constitution mandates the states and their legislature have primary responsibility for realigning both congressional and state legislative districts to ensure “nearly equal” populations and don't discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity. The governor has veto power over the maps. The redistricting plans must be approved by the end of the first legislative session following the completion of the census.

Locally, Warsaw will be guided by state statute (IC 36-4-6-4) to redistrict our five Common Council districts to “contain, as nearly as possible, equal population.” Cities are required to make the changes “during the second year after a year in which a federal decennial census is conducted.” Since all other districts are supposed to be done the year after the census is completed, cities have an extra year to complete redistricting.

The new census data will also reapportion certain revenue streams and realign the funding allocations of hundreds of billions of dollars of federal program aid that benefits states and local communities.  

Finally, despite all of the disruption to the census counting last year, it appears that the utilization of new technology may have improved the total response rate, which has been reported to be 99.98%.

Given the massive preparation required and the logistics to execute a census in “normal” times, the accomplishment of the 2020 U.S. Census, smothered by the effects of the pandemic, is another footnote of 2020 that will likely never be fully appreciated! The impacts of the census, however, will be appreciated in our communities for at least the next 10 years!