December 7, 2021, 8:38

Census data release sets off nationwide redistricting battles

Census data release sets off nationwide redistricting battles

The Census Bureau on Thursday released the first district-level 2020 census results, setting off redistricting battles that could help determine whether Republicans or Democrats win control of the House of Representatives in the 2022 midterm elections.

The data will not only trigger a rush to redraw congressional and state legislative districts across the country amid voting rights fights, but it also shows how the United States has grown more diverse.

MORE: Census data drop sets off redistricting scramble: The Note

The country diversified while the white population was the only racial or ethnic group to shrink, according the data.

Pacific Press via Getty Images, FILECensus 2020 employees help New Yorkerers fill out the census form at Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem during Census Drive, Sept. 9, 2020.

“These changes reveal that the U.S. population is much more multiracial and much more ethnically diverse than what we measured in the past,” Nicholas Jones, the director and senior adviser of race and ethnic research and outreach at the Census Bureau, said in a press conference Thursday.

Jones partly attributed that growth to a new two-question format for race and ethnicity in the 2020 census.

“Today’s release of 2020 Census redistricting data provides a new snapshot of the racial and ethnic composition and diversity of the country. The improvements we made to the 2020 Census yield a more accurate portrait of how people self-identify in response to two separate questions on Hispanic origin and race, revealing that the U.S. population is much more multiracial and more diverse than what we measured in the past,” Jones said in an accompanying press release.

Still, Americans who identified as white alone — 57.8% — made up the largest group and a majorty, decreasing from 63.7% in 2010. California, Washington, D.C., New Mexico and Puerto Rico are the only states or territories where the white alone population is not the largest population group.

The second largest group was the 18.7% who identify as Hispanic or Latino, which can also include any race. That population grew 23% over the past decade.

Jones highlighted states’ diversity index scores, which the Census Bureau defines as “the chance that two people chosen at random will be from different racial and ethnic groups,” as one method the Bureau used to measure the country’s racial and ethnic diversity.

The states with highest diversity index scores were Hawaii, California, and Nevada. On the east coast, Maryland, the District of Columbia, New York, and New Jersey also received high scores.

Many state legislatures and commissions have already begun discussing the maps of new congressional and legislative districts but were waiting for the Census data — delayed by the pandemic — before drawing maps.

“Republicans enter this redistricting cycle with the power to redraw 187 congressional districts to Democrats’ 75, which means redistricting could hand control of the House of Representatives back to Republicans in 2022 all by itself,” FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich writes.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s redistricting tracker, developed in conjunction with ABC News, at least nine states have upcoming preliminary or final deadlines in fall 2021 for either drafts of or final congressional district maps.

Six states are set to add congressional seats, seven states will each lose one seat and the remaining 37 states will keep the same number of congressional districts, the Census Bureau’s acting director announced in April.

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