Between 2010, the year of the last census, and 2017, Greene and Columbia counties lost 2% to 4% of their population, according to a state-by-state report from the U.S. Census Bureau.
They are small numbers but they carry great significance. A population decline of just a few percentage points can mean state and federal aid losses and a shift of critical political representation that could last for years.
The process, done after each census, is called redistricting.
This is why the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission is so important as 2020 approaches its end.
Members of the Commission set the wheels of procedural plans in motion Thursday to redraw district lines for elected state and congressional legislative offices. What they do this year will have consequences for us over the next decade or beyond.
The Commission’s 10 appointed members met briefly Thursday to discuss and finalize logistics before starting the real and arduous work of redrawing elective district boundaries.
The Commission agreed to set a budget and work with federal agencies to obtain 2020 census data. This is an important step because the Commission needs data for the current boundaries to use as a baseline. Commission members will be able to pose more informed questions if they get the data as soon as possible.
Commission members Thursday also discussed setting a timetable for the work using the state constitution as a guide for designating a schedule.
These are positive steps, to be sure, but it’s early in an extremely sensitive and complex game.
Elaine Frazier, chairwoman of the Capital Area Urban League Board of Directors and a Commission member, rightly declared that Thursday’s meeting is just a reminder of the support and cooperation the Commission will need as it advances.
“The best thing is for us to be honest about what we are willing to do,” Frazier said Thursday.
We could not agree more.