- By Dominick Recckio
Due to the coronavirus, 2020 census data will be calculated and returned on a later-than-normal schedule and are not expected until mid 2021. One of the implications of the late returns is on local redistricting for elections. The Tompkins County Legislature is considering how best to adjust term lengths around the return of this data in order to most accurately represent districts by total population. The redistricting process ensures that residents receive adequate representation in our County Legislature.
Legislator Amanda Champion shared options for adjusted terms at the May 19th legislature meeting. One option would be to maintain the current election cycle, with the next election for four-year terms happening in 2021, based on the current legislative districts. Another option being considered is to change the upcoming 2021 elections from four-year to two-year terms and to return to four-year terms in 2023 after new district lines are drawn based on the Census data. Options will be discussed at the next Government Operations Committee meeting on June 4th before a recommendation moves to the full Legislature.
“This impacts our county, our residents, and anyone else who wants to run for office,” said.
Each of the 14 Legislative districts in Tompkins County has roughly 7,200 constituents, for example, Lansing has two representatives, while the City of Ithaca has four representatives.
Redistricting efforts will also be carried out by the City of Ithaca and State-wide, impacting congressional districts. An accurate count from the Census ensures that every resident is represented adequately.
Households and individuals who have not yet completed the 2020 U.S. Census are encouraged to do so as soon as possible. Because the 2020 Census process has been impacted due to COVID-19 and many in-person census field office operations are on hold, in-person
census takers are not approaching households. Every household in the U.S. has been mailed a questionnaire and can complete the census online, by mail, or over the phone. Mailings and postcards to households include a unique Census ID to use while filling out the questionnaire online.
57.4% of households in Tompkins County have taken the census according to the online census response rate tracker. The number is calculated relative to a Census bureau estimate based on the 2010 count, added housing stock data, and updated data from the American Community Survey.
Census Complete Count Committee Chairperson and Tompkins County Legislator Mike Lane shared, “The goal is to get to 100%, we’re committed to counting everyone who calls Tompkins County Home.”
According to the online tracker, census tract counts in Downtown Ithaca and surrounding Cornell University and Ithaca College are low, with Collegetown tracts only having a 20-30% response rate. County officials are urging residents who live in these areas (or who are temporarily away due to COVID-19) to accurately complete the census.
College students who have left Ithaca due to the coronavirus are encouraged to be counted as being in Tompkins County, as the Census counts people where they expected to reside on April 1st of 2020. This is to ensure that an accurate count of the number of people who live in an area are represented.
An undercounted area or County could result in reduced federal funding for municipalities and nonprofits, implications for federal, state, and local representation by elected officials, access to public transportation, and inaccurate data for business and nonprofit planning.