census

Action needed by August 7!

We say things like “speak out” and “make your voice heard” a lot, but what we don't often think about in contacting our lawmakers and marching in rallies is how applicable those sentiments are to something we hardly think about: the census.

The census is one of the lesser-known foundations of our democracy, enshrined in the Constitution. Counting every person-- every one-- is a Constitutional mandate. Census data is used by federal and state agencies, educational institutions, even private companies, to do everything from drawing legislative districts and allocating funds for schools and infrastructure to deciding where to build grocery stores, housing, and medical facilities. This short video is a good place to start if you want to learn more about how the census works and and how the information is used.

The Trump administration wants to hamstring the census for a number of reasons. Most prominently, it is a foundation of our democracy, and the GOP can't have a healthy democracy getting in the way of their coup. Census data is used to draw and update congressional voting districts, and we've heard of leaders of both parties all over the country attempting to manipulate these districts to gain or keep their votes and offices. North Carolina knows this well. The less accurate the census data, the less well represented the citizenry is - and the less able the government at all levels is to do what it was designed to do. While that may be just fine with the people in power, it spells trouble ahead for everybody else.

The Trump administration has proposed to insert a question about one's citizenship status in the 2020 census. As The Nation explains,

“Anti-immigration hard-liners like...Steve Bannon and...Kris Kobach urged the administration to force a citizenship question onto the 2020 questionnaire to further their political agenda. The Bannon-Kobach scheme threatens to turn the Census from an essential, nonpartisan activity into a dangerous political weapon. The documents released by the DOJ also show that the Census Bureau warned Commerce Department leadership about the disastrous results: depressed response rates, increased costs, and inaccurate data that the nation would have to grapple with for the next 10 years. This misguided decision will affect everyone, with communities that are already at risk of being undercounted—including people of color, young children, and low-income rural and urban residents—suffering the most.”

Keeping in mind our own large immigrant population, North Carolina has much to lose if this question is included. “Net migration, which includes domestic and international, is the main driving force of population growth in North Carolina.”

So what is a dedicated, informed North Carolina citizen (or non-citizen) to do about this? Well, speak out, of course. The US Department of Commerce is soliciting comments on the citizenship question until August 7th, which is THIS TUESDAY. Submit your comment here. The form gives you space to personalize your comments, which is recommended. You can add points like:

  • Adding a question about citizenship will suppress response rates, resulting in an inaccurate count which is directly contrary to the US Constitution.
  • A citizenship question will harm already underrepresented and underserved communities like low-income communities and those with a majority of residents of color
  • A citizenship question will disproportionately impact allocation of resources for government services in all communities across the country, including schools, health care, and infrastructure, most of which is in dire need of improvement

The League of Women Voters of of the US has a petition you can sign here.

The ruling party wants you to believe that your voice doesn't matter-- but in enough numbers, it does. Having a direct voice in your government is both a privilege and a duty that every single person residing in this country has, at least for now. So enjoy your privilege, do your duty, and protect our democracy!

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