Another delay in census data being released could push back the redistricting process even further, setting up a potential special session of the Texas Legislature.
On Friday, the U.S. Census Bureau announced it would deliver the data to all states by September 30, well past the Legislature’s scheduled May 31 adjournment.
“COVID-19-related delays and prioritizing the delivery of the apportionment results delayed the Census Bureau’s original plan to deliver the redistricting data to the states by March 31, 2021,” said the agency.
Additionally, the Census Bureau noted that all states would receive their data at once, a departure from the flow basis used in years prior.
Redistricting is a process the state Legislature engages in every 10 years, following each census. Due to an increase in population, Texas is expected to gain new congressional seats.
Though the seats in the Texas Legislature remain the same, those districts will have to be redrawn as well, due to shifts in the population.
Given the late arrival of the data used to draw the districts, the state faces a few options: a special legislative session by the governor; the convening of a legislative redistricting board composed of five members, which include the lieutenant governor and speaker of the House; or deferring to the courts to determine approved maps.
Earlier this week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick jokingly suggested that the Senate could be in session until October. With the most recent delay, that could indeed be the likely outcome.
For more information on redistricting, read Texas Scorecard’s recently published explainer on the topic.