What is reapportionment and redistricting?
The term redistricting is used to define the process during which new congressional and state legislative district boundaries are drawn. These boundary lines are redrawn every 10 years after the completion of the United States Census. Over the past decade, some areas have gained population and some areas have lost population. The Census provides data that shows in detail how many people reside in each specific area of the state. Further, these population figures allow for the state to determine how many people should be part of each congressional and legislative district with each containing nearly the same population.
Reapportionment is the process by which each state is allotted a number of representatives in the House of Representatives based on the population of the state. Maryland currently has eight congressional districts and this number is not expected to change based on population projections completed before the Census. Each Congressional district must contain substantially the same number of people.
What role does the Census play?
The decennial Census was conducted in 2020 beginning in March. The COVID-19 pandemic caused several deadline adjustments by the U.S. Census Bureau and the completion was pushed from July to October. Maryland was extremely successful in the Census, finishing 9th in the nation for self-response. Self-response is when a household completes its Census form prior to Census enumerators coming to the home due to lack of response. This was a major accomplishment and the state was recognized as a leader in Census operations by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Census data is an important and critical component of reapportionment and redistricting as it provides the foundational data for determining how many people reside within certain geographical boundaries. Census tract boundaries may be changed based on the new population numbers and are used as the building blocks for creating the districts. The main purpose of this is to ensure that each district has nearly the same amount of constituents as others.
Taken into consideration with this is the process of identifying the number of inmates currently in Maryland’s correctional facilities and adjusting Census data accordingly though the prisoner reallocation process. In 2010, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law requiring persons housed in Maryland correctional facilities to be counted at their last known residence prior to incarceration. Once Census data is made available it must be adjusted to ensure that prisoners are allocated according to the law. This process must occur before final data figures are considered for redistricting by the Commission.