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Redistricting Delays Scramble State Elections

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

Election districts are still not set in many states, though redistricting should have been completed by early 2022.

Pandemic delays had already pushed back the release of census data needed for drawing new district lines, which must be redrawn every 10 years to account for population changes. In Georgia, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, that’s been compounded by court challenges, creating a perfect storm of election uncertainty.

United States Census 2020 Poster

The delay has resulted in potential candidates for state legislatures and Congress facing challenging decisions about whether to run in districts that may not exist.

How Redistricting is Playing Out in Ohio

Districts have already changed three times in Ohio, creating chaos for those deciding whether or not to run for elected office.

Stephen Kellat of Ashtabula, Ohio, had planned to run as a Republican for a seat in the state House, hoping to build his campaign around economic opportunity in the form of expanded broadband, road repairs and waterfront improvements to draw more shipping traffic. But by the time the Feb. 2 filing deadline arrived, new district maps had cut off his home from most of his supporters in a nearby church, so he decided to forgo the race.

Kellat, who is a “moderate pre-Trump Republican,” said deciding to run before the districts are set “would have been a gamble. You’d be declaring without knowing your district.”

When Ohio redid districts again, placing Kellat back with his supporters, it was too late for him to change his mind. Even still, districts may change again with court approval.

Another hopeful candidate, Teneah Chambers, from Columbus commented on the situation, “I’m not going to move—I want to represent the people, not move somewhere else just to stay on the ballot,” Chambers said. “It’s a hot mess. They shouldn’t be knocking people off the ballot, especially people who have worked hard to get on the ballot.”

Impact on Elections

Both in Ohio and other states like North Carolina and California, delayed redistricting is dealing devastating blows to electoral organizing. Across the country, candidates are being cut off out of their district and having to drop out of races. Others are waiting to see where they will run and are losing precious campaign time.

Redistricting affects voters too. Election staff are having to change the districts of hundreds of thousands of voters. This process, which should take at least four months, is being condensed into two weeks. This process, and the very short notice, is causing confusion amongst voters as to where they will vote and who they will be able to vote for.

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