Complete, Accurate Census Is Vital

Complete, Accurate Census Is Vital

Another in a series of reports from Common Cause New York's 2017 summer interns

Second in a series.

Editor’s note: Each summer, Common Cause New York is fortunate to be infused with the talents and energy of a group of interns. They help us with research on our issues, organizing our activists, and pretty much everything else that needs doing. As they headed back to their campuses, we asked them to reflect on their time with Common Cause and the challenges facing our democracy.


By Dan Lasky, Research and Policy Intern

As a summer intern in research and policy I worked on a white paper related to the 2020 Census. Our goal was to create a resource for the press, activists, and our community partners, to alert them to the coming challenges in the decennial census. A complete, accurate 2020 Census is vital for fair political representation, equitable federal funding, and high quality data for businesses, organizations, and policymakers.

The census is critical in determining how $700 billion is allocated each year to states and cities for healthcare, schools, roads, social welfare programs, and a myriad of other essential services. The census is used to determine the number of seats each state receives in the House of Representatives, along with the number of electoral votes for each state. It’s also needed to draw congressional and legislative districts. Undercounting hurts everyone. Traditionally, the necessary resources are not directed to undercounted communities, leaving the effectively unseen by the government. The 2020 Census is in danger of a high undercount due to a lack of leadership and an unwillingness by the administration and Congress to provide adequate funding to the Census Bureau. If the census is inaccurate, there will be no opportunity to correct the results until 2030. By alerting people to the situation now, we hope to give communities time to mobilize. Local and state level leadership will be needed to fill the void left by the federal government. We want to ensure that in 2020 everyone counts.

One way communities can prepare is by urging local officials to participate in the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program; it began this summer and continues until a few months prior to the Census Day in 2020. The LUCA partnership brings together local officials and the Census Bureau to update the addresses in their communities. Using local knowledge, they are able to reduce the risk of undercounting by adding households that may have been missed by the Census Bureau. In 2010, New York City added 250,000 new addresses which helped to reach millions of New Yorkers. LUCA is the best way that local and state officials can hold the federal government accountable for conducting the census.