You Can Vote (YCV) is offering a webinar on the 2020 census, Weds, March 18, 7pm. Learn about the census and how you can phonebank with YCV to encourage people to complete their census forms. More info/registration.

Put March 25, 7pm, Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill, on your calendar for a Neighbors on Call event that sounds like fun to me. It's "Meet the Candidates" hosted by "I will not yield!!" rock star, NC Rep. Deb Butler. NoC is monitoring the public health situation, they ask that you RSVP if you're interested so they can keep you updated. Details and RSVP.

We often say things like “speak out” and “make your voice heard.” We contact our lawmakers, canvass, and march in rallies. Now it's time to make our voices heard by participating in the 2020 census and encouraging everyone we know to do the same. The official census date is April 1; look for your census notice in the mail in mid-March.

Today we'll focus on general information and the context for this year's census; next Thursday, we'll cover more specific "how to" info, the timetable, privacy & security, and fake "census" forms.


The census is one of the lesser-known foundations of our democracy, enshrined in the Constitution. Counting every person - every resident, not just citizens - is a Constitutional mandate. It's conducted by the US Census Bureau, part of the Dept of Commerce. The data obtained are used by federal and state agencies, educational institutions, non-profits, and private companies, to do everything from drawing legislative districts and allocating funds for schools and infrastructure projects to deciding where to build grocery stores, housing, and medical facilities. This brief 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. Here are some fun facts and myths about the census.

Challenges to an accurate census
The Trump administration has worked to hamstring the census for a number of reasons:

The Trump administration finally gave up on its attempt to include a citizenship question on the census after multiple court rulings against it, ending with one by the Supreme Court. Even though THERE IS NO CITIZENSHIP QUESTION ON THE CENSUS, the lengthy struggle sowed understandable confusion, suspicion, and mistrust among immigrant communities around how their data might be used against them.

The 2010 census undercounted African American and Latinx residents by 1.5 million, which is roughly two Congressional districts. The 2020 census is at even greater risk of undercounting for several reasons, explained in more detail here. In a nutshell:

  • The Census Bureau is hiring tens of thousands fewer human "enumerators," aka in-person interviewers, than in 2010.
  • It's spending less money on outreach and community partnerships.
  • It's gutted its 2010 physical infrastructure, including almost all of its 2010 assistance centers to help people complete their census forms.
  • These changes are attributed to a shift to a digital census, BUT thanks to budget cuts, the bureau eliminated all but one of its planned pre-launch tests. Nothing could go wrong there, right??

Why is it so hard to get an accurate census count? From Here's what you need to know about NC's hard-to-count-communities:

  • They might be hard to locate, like people who live off-the-grid, are homeless, or don’t wish to be found.
  • They might be hard to contact, like people who live in gated communities.
  • They might be hard to interview, meaning they might have low literacy or don't speak or understand English.
  • They might be hard to persuade, meaning they are suspicious of the government or don’t see a benefit to participating in the census.
  • They might not have convenient internet or phone access.

You might be surprised to learn that are hard-to-count communities near where you live, it's not just a rural problem. The NC Counts Coalition and Carolina Demography have created an interactive map to help you find hard-to-count communities in your county.

What does NC have to gain from an accurate census count?
From NC Census:

  • North Carolina receives about $16 billion/yr in federal funding from Census-guided federal programs.
    • HEALTH $10.624 Billion
    • TRANSPORTATION $964 Million
    • EDUCATION $956 Million
    • HUMAN SERVICES $3.244 Billion
    • HOUSING $508 Million
    • TOTAL: $16.29 Billion
  • A single missed person is roughly equivalent to a forfeited $16,000 in funding for North Carolina over 10 years.
  • We should get a 14th seat in the US House of Representatives, based on our increased population.
  • Improved allocation (meaning both amount of money and where it goes) of
    • health care resources like Medicare, Medicaid, hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, community health centers, and mental health and addiction treatment services. NC Health News
    • emergency services, from local public safety departments to FEMA disaster funds
    • federal public education funding, including programs like Head Start
    • federal public housing funding

You can see what's on the table here - political power and money for our state and local communities. Check back next Thursday to learn about:

  • what information you're asked to provide
  • how you can submit your census data
  • the census timetable
  • privacy and security
  • other data collection efforts - some legit, some not - that seem like the census and aren't

Interested in part-time paid work with the census? See if they're recruiting in your county.

Let's start counting!


Tags: (2020 census, NCPol)

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