The speculation about what will happen with political redistricting later this year is in full swing, with the latest exhibit offered today by GOP analyst Tony Quinn over over at the Fox & Hounds Daily website.
The only problem is that the Census Bureau hasn't yet released its data for California, so all this speculation is so much shooting in the dark. The bureau has begun releasing state-by-state data, one state at a time over the last couple of weeks. So far, the numbers-crunchers are taking care of the easy ones first -- the small states. Although the bureau did release Illinois data yesterday, so the states on its checklist are getting larger. Everyone expects that California will be last, since it's the largest state and therefore requires the most work to prepare. That data must come by the end of March.
Only then will anyone be able to offer any intelligent speculation.
That being offered so far is based on data from the Census Bureau's most recent American Community Survey, a report that reveals a great deal of demographic information but is not a count. The neighborhood-by-neighborhood data provided in the American Community Survey provides a rolling average of population over the last 5 years. Given that the greatest recession since the Great Depression hit in the middle of that, along with an uprecedented housing and foreclosure crisis, it's a very safe bet that the population picture on April 1, 2010 (Census day) will be significantly different from what a rolling average over the previous five years would show.
ACS population numbers cannot be used, as the state's top redistricting data diva, Karin MacDonald of the Statewide Database at UC Berkeley asserts, to draw prospective districts or make conclusions about possible redistricting scenarios.
"You might as well call Miss Cleo on the Psychic Hotline," MacDonald said recently of those who try to use ACS data for such purposes.
Her advice: Be patient. There will be plenty of time to go crazy with the numbers once they're actually released next month.