BILLINGS — Montanans will have to wait a bit longer to find out if the state will gain a second Congressional Seat in the 2023 Congress.
Just three weeks ago, Census officials identified March 6 as the target date for the release of the new congressional apportionment data, but now that date has been pushed to the end of April.
By law, those early Census numbers are to be delivered to the President by Dec. 31 of the census year. But this past year, due to lengthy court battles, pandemic delays, and computer anomalies, the Census failed to meet its deadline.
But this week, yet another delay, the fifth one this year. Census officials are now telling state officials they hope to release the new apportionment numbers by April 30, 2021.
Joe Lamson, with the Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission, told MTN News that he's been told "anomalies in the Census database" are taking longer than expected to correct.
Lamson said the announcement of yet another delay indicates to him that "the anomalies they are trying to resolve remain a major problem."
If the April 30 deadline is met, the State Commission would receive the final Census numbers in August. Once that occurs it will trigger Montana’s constitutional requirement to produce a new congressional district plan within 90 days.
If the new timeline is followed, Lamson said optimistically that would allow for hearings to begin in September through late November.
As for Montana's margin of error to gain a second Congressional seat, Lamson said that remains between 5,000 and 10,000 people, reportedly in Montana's favor.