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Arizona Edition: The 2020 U.S. Census And Its Impact On Redistricting

Brandon Mejia
Census 2020

While the deadline for filling out the U.S. Census has been pushed to the end of September, the Census return rate for Yuma County is currently under 50-percent. 



"It is an extremely important thing that we have to do every ten years" - Eric Holder, Chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee

The number of people counted in any given location will be the data used by the state's independent redistricting commission to draw Congressional district maps.


There are nine Congressional districts in Arizona now, but numbers from the 2020 U.S. Census could increase that to 10 this year. Census numbers also determine what share of federal money a region will receive.


"People have to participate in the Census to make sure the federal money [is] distributed in a fair way," said Eric Holder, Chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. He also served as the United States Attorney General during the Obama Administration. "If you want appropriate amounts of distribution of political power you have to participate."


Arizona is one of seven states with an independent redistricting commission and one of the first to transfer the power to draw electoral districts away from the state legislature and place it in the hands of an independent and bipartisan commission. That was made possible by a voter-approved initiative 20 years ago. 


State legislators have the responsibility for drawing congressional district maps in most states.  But Holder says recent decades have seen political parties take advantage of the process.  


"We have seen Democrats gerrymander, we have seen Republicans gerrymander, Princeton did a study on it in 2011, the Republican gerrymandering from 2011 was the worst in the last half-century," Holder explained. 


In this episode of Arizona Edition, KAWC's Lou Gum speaks with Holder on redistricting, responding to the U.S. Census and how Arizona's redistricting process could be a model for other states. We’ll also hear how you can have a voice on the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which is taking applications for new members this week.

Lou grew up in Tucson and has a long family history in the state of Arizona. He began his public radio career in 1988 at KNAU in Flagstaff as a classical music DJ and has been hooked on public radio since, transitioning to news after trying his hand at several other careers in publishing and commercial broadcasting. Lou has a degree in American Studies from Arizona State University and was KAWC's Morning Edition host for two and half years before becoming News and Operations Director.
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