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07/1/2019 | Local Progress: A National Network of Progressive Local Elected Officials

Using Local Budgets to Ensure Fair Counts for the 2020 Census

In May, Local Progress and the Center for Popular Democracy released an advocacy toolkit, Using Your Local Budgets to Ensure a Fair Count of Your Community, to help local elected officials leverage their power to support a fair count in the 2020 Census. Getting the 2020 Census count right is critical—it will shape political representation, public policy and funding, private sector investments, and determine whose voice is heard at every level of our democracy.

The census has been chronically underfunded for years. What’s more, the Trump administration is planning to offer insufficient funding in order to ensure an adequate count. The Trump administration is also attempting to add an untested and unnecessary citizenship question to the census. On June 27, the Supreme Court ruled that this attempt violated U.S. law by being “arbitrary and capricious” and prevented it from being added to the census—for now. 

Adding a question on citizenship jeopardizes an accurate count because of the almost-certain drop in participation by noncitizens and mixed-immigration-status households. Together, all of this could dampen participation, disenfranchise people in hard-to-count communities, and result in significant ramifications for redistricting and political representation for the next decade.

In this climate, local elected officials have a unique tool: the power to provide budgetary resources to ensure that get out the count (GOTC) to reach hard-to-count populations in their local jurisdictions. To this end, the toolkit offers resources to help electeds calculate funding losses to their jurisdiction that would result from a census undercount. It will also help elected officials determine the amount of resources they should allocate in their budgets to support a complete count. And, it offers advice on how local elected officials can work with their colleagues to exercise leadership in support of GOTC efforts.

Following the release of the toolkit, Local Progress hosted a webinar, featuring Councilmember Erica Spell (Hyattsville, M.D.) and Vice Mayor Sabrina Javellana (Hallandale, Fla.) along with CPD’s Emma Greenman, Director of Voting Rights and Democracy, and Kate Hamaji, Research Analyst, to review the budget advocacy toolkit and highlight the urgent need for local elected officials to take action to ensure a complete and fair count in their jurisdictions.