Even though the 2020 Census is two years away, the fight to get a fair and accurate count of everyone in the United States is well underway, and in Illinois, a full count is more important than ever.

Every ten years, when the Census is carried out, our government has a much harder time counting people of color, children, immigrants, and people living in low-income or rural communities. This results in a so-called “undercount” – when the number of people counted in an area is lower than the number of people that actually live there. Because billions of dollars and the amount of representation we have in the federal government depends on our census count, we feel the effects of an undercount in our communities and our state firsthand.

The healthcare clinic school down the street may close, and even if they manage to keep their doors open, the quality of doctors may decline. The highways and parks in our neighborhoods may be taken care of less often and fall to the wayside. If a tornado hits Illinois, the state might not have the money to offer us the support we need, like food and shelter. We won’t have as many voices speaking on behalf of Illinois in the House of Representatives or in the Electoral College. When we aren’t counted, fewer people are looking out for us.

With stakes that high, we can’t allow a census that isn’t fair, accurate, and inclusive, but the odds are stacked against us. The position of Census Director has been empty for over a year, meaning nobody is in charge of the Census on a permanent basis. The federal government has spent years underfunding the census and its development, so it is going to be almost impossible to count everyone. Many Americans are scared of our government, especially now that they have chosen to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, which dozens of experts have said will almost certainly lead to fewer people responding.

Every eligible American wants their voice to be heard and to know that their vote counts in selecting the people and policies that will determine the future of our families and communities. That’s why Common Cause members are stepping up and speaking out to demand a fair and accurate Census — to ensure that we can all have an equal say.

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