The census takes place every ten years. The goal of the census is to count every person who lives in the country. It is mandated by the Constitution and everyone who lives in the United States is required by law to respond. The census is important because:
- It determines how much federal funding is allocated to each state for important programs and services such as transportation, SNAP, Head Start, Medicaid, etc.
- It provides important data for governments and other organizations to use in planning and development decisions.
- It is used to determine if states are violating the Civil Rights Act and is used to enforce the Voting Rights Act.
- The 435 seats in the House of Representatives are divided based on population; gains or losses in population may cause gains or losses in House seats.
There are a number of populations classified as “Hard to Count.” These undercounted groups include children under five, LGBTQ persons, people of color, low-income residents and renters. In 2020, much of the census information will be gathered online, which will increase the number of hard to count populations. The census is currently underfunded according to recommendations from advocacy groups concerned about the issue. Additionally, the dress rehearsal for the census in Providence, RI, has highlighted significant concerns about the level of preparedness as we approach 2020.
The Commerce and Justice Departments have proposed adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. Advocates have raised concerns that this will result in many people not completing the census. The citizenship question has been opposed by over 250,000 people and organizations, including a coalition of 300 philanthropic organizations and the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on National Statistics (public comment on this census closed on August 7th). There are six pending lawsuits in federal court seeking to exclude the citizenship question from the 2020 census.
State Voices is convening a nonpartisan, statewide group to focus on a fair and accurate census for Florida in 2020. This group is focused on promoting adequate funding for the census, increasing the count with “Hard to Count” populations, creating local and regional networks to promote the census and educating elected officials, the business community and others about the important of the census. This workgroup has a monthly conference call to discuss updates and the status of the statewide outreach plan. In the coming months, they will determine initial steps toward putting together Complete Count Committees. These committees are local, multi-stakeholder groups that create awareness about the census and promote an accurate count.
Role for LWVSPA
The work around the census will ramp up in 2019 and 2020 (outreach, awareness and getting out the count), but in the meantime, these are roles that the League can play in the coming months:
- Participate on monthly statewide census workgroup calls.
- Participate on and recruit organizations to serve on local Complete Count Committee, particularly organizations that are connected to “Hard to Count” populations.
- Educate elected officials about the importance of fully funding the census and ensuring and accurate count.
- Participate in outreach opposing the citizenship question.