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What’s at Stake for This Census

2020 brings a year of new challenges and opportunities to better our democracy. Part of this work will be through the 2020 Census--which will be rolling out on April 1st, 2020. The census, which occurs every ten years, collects information on the population that is then used to better allocate the billions of dollars in federal funding for everything from social programs and public safety to electoral representation, and even infrastructure spending.  The League of Women Voters has prioritized census action as one of our goals this year to ensure that the process is successful. In 2019, we rolled out our three-part approach to the census which included a focus on education, Get Out the Count (GOTC), and watchdog advocacy.   

Mobilization around the census is critical in making sure that all individuals across the country are accounted for. This year, the census bureau will be rolling out some new changes to the 2020 Census. Filling out the form on paper will no longer be the primary method of responding to the census. You will now be able to fill the census out via telephone or online in addition to the mail-in form. In addition to the new challenges on digitization, we will also need to be vigilant in addressing fear around the citizenship question, which will NOT be appearing on the 2020 Census form.   

Considering these challenges, nonprofit and community-based organizations have strengthened their commitment to filling in the gaps where federal funding falls short. Community organizing and advocacy will be an essential part of GOTC efforts this year. There is a lot at stake for the census. Getting an accurate count means more money for schools, more funding for rural hospitals, and better representation for all. The impacts of the census could lead to greater structural change if we all work to help get out the count. To help League volunteers in their work for the census, we have made some significant updates to our Census Action Kit, that will make your GTOC plan effective, accessible, and empowering.  

In preventing undercount, it is important to understand what communities tend to have lower response rates and best practices on how to engage with them on the census. We have added links to many fact sheets as well as a mapping resource to help you better understand who’s in your community and how to best reach them. Additionally, we have also partnered with the National Association of Elected and Appointed Latino Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund to provide several translated materials and bilingual resources to our kit. While the official census form is only available in a limited number of languages, you can still use fact sheets and other informational materials to help supplement information when encouraging bilingual communities to fill out the form.   

Every individual living in the United States can and should fill out a census form. Regardless of their immigration status, age, or socioeconomic background, the census is a tool for civic engagement that is designed to give visibility to ALL individuals. Our work and dedication to making sure that communities across America are able to fill out the census form without any hinderance is an important part of building a stronger and more representative democracy that works for all of us.