Pennsylvania’s 2022 primary election, currently scheduled for May 17, could be postponed due to a delay in the United States Census Bureau's redistricting data reaching the states.
The census is a count of the entire living population in the United States, conducted once a decade by the U.S. Census Bureau and mandated by the Constitution. The data is then used to determine the drawing of voting districts for state and national representation, as well as federal funding allocation. As of now, the data is expected to be delayed by six months from its original April 1 release date to Sept. 30, Philly Voice reported.
In Pennsylvania, new census data has the potential to alter the current nine-nine congressional delegation tie between Republicans and Democrats, particularly if the state loses a seat, as predicted by the Population Reference Bureau.
District lines need to be finalized in order for candidates to decide whether to run and circulate petitions to get on the ballot before the primary, Political Science professor Matthew Levendusky told The Daily Pennsylvanian in February 2020.
“[The census] not only shapes how many members of Congress are allocated to Pennsylvania, but, every year, hundreds of millions of dollars are allocated via formulas based on the census figures,” Levendusky told the DP.
The Pennsylvania congressional map is created by a five-member committee and is subject to approval by the governor. During the joint hearing of the House and Senate state government committees, head of the Legislative Data Processing Center Brent McClintock said that with this timing, his agency would have numbers prepared for mapmakers around May 2022.
In a February press release, the Census Bureau attributed the timeline change to “COVID-19-related delays and prioritizing the delivery of the apportionment results.” The Census Bureau also noted that its reporting policy is changing, from delivering state data on a “flow basis” in the past to releasing data simultaneously.
Last year was the first year in which the Census Bureau offered the option to complete the census survey online. Though the introduction of technology was intended to make data collection more convenient, some lawmakers are questioning the effectiveness of the process in light of the delay, The Associated Press reported.
Some states are taking legal action due to the new deadline on redistricting data. On Feb. 25, Ohio became the first state to sue the Census Bureau over the new deadline, The Washington Post reported. The suit claims that the delay will cause “irreparable harms” to Ohio as it tries to redistrict in accordance with state-mandated deadlines.