Every ten years, this sorta kinda important thing called the U.S. Constitution mandates that we take a head count of every resident in the United States—yes, even our exes. So, with the 2020 Census around the corner, now would be an opportune time to reiterate its importance.
How congressional seats are allocated? That’s determined by census data. Redistricting? Yup, census data too. The enforcement of voting rights laws? Oh, hi census data! I didn’t see you there. It’s also used by the federal government to ensure that public funds are distributed properly to local, state and tribal governments.
“The census guides the distribution of at least $700 billion in federal funds for programs,” Gary Bass said. And considering he’s the executive director of the Bauman Foundation, which works to ensure the accuracy of the 2020 Census, he probably knows what he’s talking about.
“Everything from Medicaid to Head Start. And it ensures there is enough money for school programs and new school construction,” he added.
But for communities of color, the NAACP is kind enough to point out why it’s especially important for us.
The Census is especially critical to communities of color as they are most susceptible to an undercount, and historically, they have been undercounted–legally. Although a fair and accurate count is a constitutional mandate, African Americans have had to fight to receive fair or accurate representation. Dating back to 1787, The Three-Fifths compromise was established by lawmakers as a way to count the Black population. Essentially, it required states to only count three-fifths its slaves.
Many years later, while the Three-Fifths compromise is a thing of the past, African Americans and other populations of color still suffer from gross undercounts. What exactly does an undercount mean for these communities? It means that they will not be allocated the proper funding for schools, community centers, social services, public roads, transportation etc.
Okay, so now we all agree that the census is kind of a big deal, right? Cool.
Now look at this shit.
Here’s a short list of things that are meaningless.
2. Columbus Day
3. Love and Hip-Hop: Miami
As you can see, nowhere on that list will you find the United States census.
And if it did include a citizenship question, it would not only be the first full census to do so since 1950, but would risk driving down the official count of our national population. Which in turn could bolster the Republican Party’s efforts to reassign congressional seats and electoral votes after 2020.
The stakes for the census are extremely high. The main role of the population figure obtained is determining reapportionment of the 435 seats in the US House of Representatives, and by extension, electoral votes in presidential elections. Each state gets at least one seat and the other 385 are distributed based on population.
After the 2020 census, Rust Belt states are expected to lose seats and electoral votes, while states with growing populations like Texas, Florida, Colorado and North Carolina could gain. And those numbers will be locked for a decade.
Undercounting is worst among minorities and immigrants — traditional constituencies of Democrats.
Oh, and there’s also this—once again, courtesy of the NAACP.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration continues to underfund and mismanage the Census process, laying the groundwork for a dramatic undercount that would dilute the political power of racial and ethnic minorities and deprive communities of color of critical federal funds.
So do ya’ll see what Trump is trying to do here?
“Trump’s playing politics in it [...] He has an address, he tweets things out and I think that that’s just immature and childish,” Boston Mayor Mary Walsh told reporters at a kick-off event for the upcoming census. “We’re talking about counting people that are in the United States of America and I think that’s what the definition of the census is.”
“It’s not about whether you’re an American citizen or not, it’s about who’s living in the United States of America, that’s the intention, I believe, behind the census,” he added. “I think the president is playing this game rather than getting an accurate count of how many people live in the United States of America, which I think he should probably want to know.”
Pretty fucking much.
A federal judge ruled earlier this year against asking the question, but the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. Justices will begin to listen to arguments next week.