The announcement, which will be made by the bureau’s acting director in the afternoon, will include the total population for each state, as well as the number of congressional seats. These numbers will set off the redistricting process that happens every decade, an often highly contentious saga where both Democrats and Republicans look to create as many safe congressional seats for their parties as possible.
The release of the data has been a long time coming, delayed by both the coronavirus pandemic and controversial legal fights on how President Donald Trump’s administration has handled the process.
In the majority of states, maps are redrawn and accepted by state legislatures, with many giving authority to the state’s governor to either approve or deny the new districts. Only a handful of states rely on relatively independent commissions to determine new maps. Because Republicans have been more successful at winning state legislatures in recent years, the party has almost total control over the process in a number of key states, like Texas and Florida.
If Republicans embark on cutting up increasingly diverse populations in the suburbs around some of the nation’s largest cities — combining them with more reliably Republican voters in exurbs and rural areas — the party will open themselves up to racial gerrymandering claims. Democrats are prepared to fight any attempts.
“The presumption that Republicans should get all of those new seats simply because they control the process is a presumption of gerrymandering,” said Kelly Ward Burton, the president of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. “And that is illegal.”
The question for those party officials in charge of the redistricting process will be whether to treat these shifts as either aberrations or signs of more lasting changes.
“For people who did this stuff a decade ago, if they had known that Donald Trump was going to come along in 2016 and shift the American electorate, there’s at least a couple dozen seats around the country that would have been drawn differently than they were,” said Adam Kincaid, the head of the National Republican Redistricting Trust. “And that is the challenge for the next few years is trying to forecast out how much this realignment is permanent versus temporary.”