A federal appeals court sided with Ohio on Tuesday in the state’s effort to get detailed 2020 census data earlier than expected to draw new congressional and legislative districts.
In its two-page ruling, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Ohio has standing to sue to get the data after a lower court dismissed the lawsuit in March. The ruling reversed the lower court decision and forced the lower court to try to remedy the matter.
The Census Bureau released initial data late last month from the 2020 decennial count, which determines House seats and the disbursement of $1.5 trillion in federal aid to communities, among other things. The state-level results showed that Ohio, a crucial presidential battleground state, will lose one congressional seat for next year's elections.
While the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, is required by law to deliver population data to the states by April 1, the bureau then pushed back the release of the redistricting data because of delays attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ohio, however, sets initial deadlines for drawing legislative and congressional and maps at Sept. 1 and Sept. 30, with several hearings preceding those dates.
The state's Republican attorney general, Dave Yost, sued to get redistricting data from the Census Bureau by mid-August instead of waiting until Sept. 30, when the Census Bureau had estimated it would provide the detailed breakdowns for states.
“Although Ohio would prefer to get its data sooner, Ohio agrees that an August 16 delivery would allow it to complete its redistricting process,” the judges' ruling stated. “But Ohio currently has no assurance that the federal government will live up to its most recent representation.
The judges added that “monitoring by the district court could move the proceedings along and provide Ohio with some redress” if the bureau does not deliver the data in time.
Yost, sued to get redistricting data from the Census Bureau by mid-August instead of waiting until Sept. 30, when the Census Bureau had estimated it would provide the detailed breakdowns for states.
Yost said in a statement following the ruling, "Bringing this suit forced the U.S. Census Bureau to admit it can provide us the data sooner than originally stated — which has been our goal all along. Now we are asking the court to hold them to their word."
A lower court ruled in March that Ohio did not have standing in the case and that Yost failed to show that the state would suffer if it received redistricting data from the 2020 census in September.
A Commerce Department spokesperson said in a statement that the department does not comment on ongoing litigation.