IPA Blog

Redistricting and Census Updates & Next Steps

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Recently, the Census Bureau released its first decennial census product – apportionment data that sets the number of seats in the House of Representatives that each state will have for a decade.  The new data reminds us of the importance of the census and the redistricting work yet to come. 

Census

The apportionment data released last week showed the importance of a fair and accurate census count. Minnesota, expected to lose a congressional seat, held even but only by 26 people. New York, expected to lose two congressional seats, only lost one seat and missed saving that seat by 89 people (out of a population of 20,215,751). Indiana held steady with our 9 congressional seats.

Over the past six months, the Census Subgroup, which steered the census funder collaborative, has heard from census stakeholders and funders alike of the need to continue the census collaborative. This message was loud and clear in preliminary findings from an independent evaluation of the philanthropic effort to promote the 2020 census.  More than 9 in 10 funders felt the census work should continue and nearly every funder surveyed felt it was very important to continue the Census Equity Initiative (which provided grants to groups in states with limited philanthropy and high undercounts). As one funder said, “crazy not to continue,” echoing the sentiment of many who were interviewed.  And 84% of state and local census groups responding to a survey said they expect to continue their census work.

Accordingly, the Census Subgroup has developed a census “lite” plan, called the Census Equity Initiative. The objective is to capitalize on the momentum to address upcoming census issues we know are looming (e.g., existing 2020 data quality issues and upcoming American Community Survey and 2030 policy and planning issues) and continue the coalitions that tackled census issues with the hopes of keeping a focus on those who are historically undercounted and ensuring effective operations. 

Attached is the draft plan which provides more details about the scope of work envisioned. The plan incorporates the views of more than 30 local, state and national funders and stakeholders deeply engaged in the census plus input from the 13 foundations on the Census Subgroup. 

To share feedback on the Census Equity Initiative, contact any of the below:

Redistricting

The initial apportionment data provided the total population, however we will not see more detailed information, including demographic and geographic data, until the Census Bureau releases its block-level redistricting files. These files are expected to be available in a user-friendly format by September 30 and in an untabulated, less user-friendly format by August 16. Once that data is available, district map drawing debates will fully get underway. Every state will need to redraw their state legislative districts and states with more than one representative will need to draw their congressional districts to account for population shifts to maintain equal populations in each district and to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

As a reminder, the drawing of congressional and state legislative district lines shapes how communities are represented for the decade ahead. This representation influences federal and state policies as well as resources for education, health care, economic development, infrastructure, the environment, and more. 

Fair Representation in Redistricting, which is the redistricting funder collaborative, is moving full steam ahead with: (1) support for nonpartisan civic organizations and community-based coalitions in targeted states to advance community-centered redistricting; (2) research and mitigation strategies to promote the continued use of total population for drawing districts; and (3) national support services to enable fair maps across states. The collaborative places racial equity and social justice as driving forces centering the work of the initiative. Here is a short slide deck describing the funder collaborative, including a list of funders steering the initiative and the team doing the day-to-day work.

Although the redistricting data files are available in August/September, redistricting work is well underway in most states. Community groups are meeting to refine strategies, build out coalitions, develop communications capacities, ensure the process will be transparent and allow for community participation, educate community members, and more.  The time for funders to engage is now.

Here is an update on activities happening around the country:

Foundation CEOs Encourage Funders to Support Fair Representation in Redistricting. Here is a letter from Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation, La June Montgomery Tabron of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Barbara Picower of The JPB Foundation describing the importance of redistricting and the philanthropic efforts to support a more fair, inclusive, and transparent process that results in more equitable maps and fairer representation. “For every issue to which funders are dedicated, redistricting matters,” the three CEOs note as they also describe examples. They encourage funders to contribute to Fair Representation in Redistricting, the funder collaborative.

Legal Memo on Redistricting Activities Permissible for Foundations. James Joseph and Bridget Weiss of Arnold & Porter, two nationally known experts on tax-exempt organization (including foundations) law and regulation, are preparing a memo on redistricting that identifies the types of activities that private and other types of foundations can undertake. We will post it here when it is available. 

Collaborative Work is Underway. Here are some examples of work that has started:

  • State-based work.  The collaborative has supported groups in thirteen midwestern, southern and southwestern states, nearly all the 14 prioritized states. (See slide deck About Fair Representation in Redistricting for a list of the states.) Groups are now moving into implementation mode.
  • Messaging research.  ASO Communications and Frameshift are conducting an innovative research project to develop messages and tools that stakeholders state-based groups can use.  They have just completed the qualitative portion of the work (see slide deck), and will provide an in-depth briefing on May 19 at 9:00 am PT / 12:00 noon ET. If you are interested in participating, please register here
  • Redistricting Data Hub. This website brings together data from academics and redistricting experts in one location to make it easy for community groups engaged in drawing fair districts to access accurate data to plug into the mapping software they choose to use. The Data Hub also provides training and technical assistance on redistricting data and mapping tools.
  • One-Stop Website.  All About Redistricting provides updated information about redistricting in each state. 
  • National Technical Assistance for Organizing. Nine national organizing organizations have come together to develop materials and provide trainings for state and local groups; that coalition will likely grow. The coalition is called Coalition Hub for Advancing Redistricting through Grassroots Engagement or CHARGE.  If you’d like more information, you can contact Kathay Feng at Common Cause, and you can check out their materials.
  • Legal Technical Assistance.  Eleven national and regional legal organizations with extensive experience on legal issues related to drawing district maps, such as compliance with the Voting Rights Act, are also helping to provide training and technical assistance to state-based groups. 

Funder Resources.  The Funders’ Committee on Civic Participation and United Philanthropy Forum will continue the outreach and education roles they played during the census. FCCP has set up a listserv for regular updates on programming and resources related to redistricting: join FCCP’s Redistricting Listserv. There is already a wealth of redistricting resources for funders available on the FCCP website (including a factsheet on gerrymandering and racial equity).

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