COLUMBUS — The federal government agreed Tuesday to give Ohio key census information more than a month earlier than planned, allowing the state a better opportunity to meet its constitutional requirements for redistricting.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost reached a settlement in his lawsuit against the U.S. Census Bureau that requires it release population data by Aug. 16. The settlement came less than a week after the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Ohio had standing to sue for the delay in the data.
A district court had dismissed Yost’s suit.
“This administration tried to drag its feet and bog this down in court, but Ohio always had the law on its side and now the federal government has finally agreed,” Yost said. “It’s time to cough up the data.”
The agreement also requires the bureau to provide biweekly updates confirming it will meet the Aug. 16 deadline. Those updates become weekly in August. Yost also agreed to drop the lawsuit.
Federal law requires census information to be given to each state by March 31, but the U.S. Census Bureau announced in February it would not come until Sept. 30 because of COVID-19-related delays.
“Before Ohio filed, the Bureau insisted that it could not provide accurate, usable data before September,” Yost said. “Because of our suit, the Bureau found a way.”
Ohio law requires new election district maps to be drawn and public input to be received by a certain date, and the U.S. Census Bureau’s original timeline to release the information would have forced the law to be broken by Ohio officials.
The bureau released some information in late April, showing Ohio would lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and the state’s population growth was slow over the past decade. That information, however, only involved data down to the state level.
Ohio law requires a Sept. 30 deadline for drawing lines and a first vote on state maps 29 days after the U.S. Census Bureau releases redistricting information.
Ohio voters created the Ohio Redistricting Commission in 2018 for the General Assembly. The commission consists of the governor, auditor, secretary of state and appointments from Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate.