What the 2020 Census Data Means for Redistricting in Illinois

The census figures have been eagerly awaited by states, and they are sure to set off an intense partisan battle over representation at a time of deep national division and fights over voting rights

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The Census Bureau on Thursday issued its most detailed portrait yet of how the U.S. has changed over the past decade and the data makes it likely that Illinois state lawmakers will redraw the maps they agreed to earlier this summer.

The Democratic-controlled General Assembly agreed to new state Senate and House districts even before the new detailed data was released Thursday. Now, they are expected to return to Springfield to redraw those maps.

The census figures have been eagerly awaited by states, and they are sure to set off an intense partisan battle over representation at a time of deep national division and fights over voting rights. The numbers could help determine control of the U.S. House in the 2022 elections and provide an electoral edge for the next decade. The data will also shape how $1.5 trillion in federal spending is distributed each year.

The new data shows that much of the fastest growth occurred in the nation's largest cities and their suburbs, while populations in many rural areas declined in the 2020 census. That data will serve as the building block to redraw 429 U.S. House districts in 44 states and 7,383 state legislative districts across the U.S. The official goal is to ensure each district has roughly the same number of people.

In Illinois, the population sat at 12.8 million, which is 18,000 less than 10 years ago, marking a 0.14% decrease. Illinois was one of just three states to lose population, the data showed.

In Chicago, however, there are 2.7 million people, an increase of 50,000, or 1.9%, compared to 2010 when the city saw a 6.9% decrease.

In 2020, the city reported a population that is 31% white, 30% Latino, 29% Black and 7% Asian. That's compared to 2010, when the population was 33% Black, 32% white, 28% Latino and 5% Asian.

"Today’s Census info shows Chicago’s resilience in the face of unprecedented challenges: privacy concerns, the Trump Admin's fear inducing policies targeting immigrants and a global pandemic," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted. "We're digging into the data but today we celebrate the growth of our incredible city."

The data comes from compiling forms filled out last year by tens of millions of Americans, with the help of census takers and government statisticians to fill in the blanks when forms were not turned in or questions were left unanswered. The numbers reflect countless decisions made over the past 10 years by individuals to have children, move to another part of the country or to come to the U.S. from elsewhere.

The figures show continued migration to the South and West and population losses in the Mississippi Delta, Appalachia and smaller counties that lost people to larger counties. The numbers also indicate that the white population is aging and has fallen to its smallest share of the total population on record, though there are some exceptions. The share of the white population actually grew in coastal communities in the Carolinas and Virginia, as well as in counties stretching through the midsections of Georgia and Alabama. The population under age 18 is increasingly diverse.

The release offers states the first chance to redraw their political districts in a process that is expected to be particularly brutish since control over Congress and statehouses is at stake. It also provides the first opportunity to see, on a limited basis, how well the Census Bureau fulfilled its goal of counting every U.S. resident during what many consider the most difficult once-a-decade census in recent memory.

“The data we are releasing today meet our high quality data standards," acting Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin said.

Even before it began, the headcount was challenged by attempted political interference from the Trump administration’s failed efforts to add a citizenship question to the census form, a move that critics feared would have a chilling effect on immigrant or Hispanic participation. The effort was stopped by the Supreme Court.

The information was originally supposed to be released by the end of March, but that deadline was pushed back because of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Census Bureau on Monday released state population totals that determine the number of House seats each state gets out of 435. According to the data, southern states grew the fastest, with a 10.2% overall increase in population.


NBC Chicago/Associated Press
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