Legislators will need to change state law to redraw municipal voting precincts now that the U.S. Census Bureau delayed its promised delivery of data by six months, Secretary of State William Galvin said Tuesday, flagging his "grave concerns" about the population count.
Galvin told the Joint Ways and Means Committee that determining local districts will need to be completed by the end of the calendar year ahead of the 2022 election cycle, and the timeframe is tight with population data now targeted to arrive by Sept. 30 rather than March 31.
Redrawing precinct and equalizing ward lines at the local level is an "essential step" in preparing for the once-per-decade reshaping of state legislative and congressional districts, Galvin said. The secretary said he is worried the Census Bureau's decision to end the count early in 2020 will lead to inaccuracies in communities where populations are more difficult to reach, and he said officials have not yet been given a chance to "spot-check" the data.
Galvin said he is "in no way satisfied or comfortable" with the responses he has received from the federal government about his concerns, and plans to speak with Census Bureau officials in the coming days and weeks. While Galvin described the appropriation his office is set to receive from Gov. Charlie Baker's $45.6 billion fiscal year 2022 budget as "adequate" on most fronts, he also floated the possibility of needing more money to bring a legal challenge against the population count.
"I remain concerned about the accuracy of the numbers as it affects all of our cities and towns and particularly those who are hard to count," Galvin said. "So I want to make sure that we'll have the resources, should it be necessary, to further litigate or do other activities to make sure these numbers are both accurate and usable."