Protecting New York from a census crisis
We all must work together to protect every New Yorker’s constitutional rights and civil liberties. That’s why Common Cause New York is working to ensure a fair and accurate census count for 2020. The census is a complex operation to collect important demographic, social, and economic information, and serves as the country’s best source for reliable nationwide and community-level data. Key decisions about how the 2020 Census will launch are being made now, and poor choices could have enormous impacts for all of us in the years to come.
For the first time, the Census Bureau will ask households to provide 2020 Census information both by mail and online in an attempt to reduce outreach costs. The bureau’s goal is to have 55% of 2020 responses submitted online, despite indications that they are significantly underestimating the number of households which do not have internet access necessary to complete the form – a phenomenon commonly referred to as the digital divide.
Over-reliance on collecting census information online means that a large proportion of people may be missed. Additionally, there is serious concern that the current level of federal funding for the Census Bureau will compromise the fairness and accuracy of the 2020 Census. The underfunding of key preparations has the potential to result in a crisis of under-performance, particularly in at-risk communities.
A complete and accurate count for the 2020 Census will have wide ranging and long term impacts throughout New York State. Census-derived data is the basis for providing equal political representation under the U.S. Constitution; the census directly controls the number of New York representatives in the U.S. Congress. Policymakers use census data to identify community needs and distribute federal program dollars to states and localities based on population numbers or other community characteristics measured by the census and related American Community Survey. In New York for example, the distribution of $53 billion in federal funding for programs relies on data derived from the decennial census. Businesses and industry also decide where to locate new plants and services based on census data, creating new jobs and promoting economic growth.
Common Cause New York is part of New York Counts, a coalition of civic organizations working to
- Advocate for adequate federal funding for Census 2020;
- Build public awareness about the importance of the census to increase the response rate;
- Collaborate with trusted organizations to create connections to New York’s diverse communities for census awareness;
- Ensure participation by counties, cities and towns in the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program.
A complete count not only helps ensure fair and accurate congressional, state, and local redistricting but determines whether communities receive funding for local infrastructure and social services that reflects true population levels. The distribution of political power, economic investment and government funding for at-risk communities relies heavily on a fair and accurate 2020 Census count.