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Census delay prompts a rare General Assembly special session this fall

Joe Irizarry
Delaware Public Media

State lawmakers will reconvene for a rare special session this fall to redraw the legislative districts.


It’s because the 2020 census is behind schedule.


House and Senate leadership announced lawmakers will return to Dover in the fall for the redistricting process.


The state is not expected to get the 2020 census data until after June because of delays, so legislators will have to wait before starting the process.


Senate President Pro Temp David Sokola says there are concerns the census was not conducted accurately last year, and could be incomplete.


“There are concerns that we won't have complete data,” says Sokola. “We still have an obligation to do this and we’ll do it the best we can with the information we have — and try to have it done in as timely a manner as possible.”


Sokola says sometimes the process can take multiple years. The 2001 redistricting ran into the next legislative session, as the process stalled.


The redistricting process is done with party leaders and attorneys from both sides, and approved by the legislature.


Sokola says he’s pushed for a shift to an independent redistricting committee, intended to be less partisan, but the bills have never passed the House before.


He says with new lawmakers in the House this year, there could be renewed interest.


Sokola adds this rare move could actually be beneficial to the process.


“The way June goes in Delaware and during a pandemic hopefully things will be more open and this’ll be an opportunity to do it and do it right in light of how untimely we’re getting the data,” he says.


Sokola has been in the Senate for the past two redistricting efforts, and says sometimes it’s an afterthought, as lawmakers deal with their regular legislative work.


He expects more attention will be paid to the process this year as the sole focus of a special session, and with concerns 2020 census data may not be complete or accurate.


Lawmakers usually only reconvene for a special session to confirm new judges or cabinet members.


More details about the special session schedule are expected once it’s clear when the census data will arrive.


Roman Battaglia a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.