“The census was designed as a tool to ensure adequate representation, resources, and voting power for citizens, any attempt to use it instead as a means of suppressing the vote, should be and must be viewed as an insidious threat to our overall democracy.”
~ Leon W. Russell, chairman, NAACP
Friends, by now you have received your census code. Please fill it out online or via phone. I understand being skeptical, but here’s why it’s important.
The census was designed to ensure adequate representation, resources, and voting power for states and its citizens. It should be an impartial look at the nation’s demographics.
The data provide a picture of our nation that helps determine where to build new schools, roads, hospitals, and businesses; how federal funding is distributed; and how congressional seats are apportioned.
We’ve seen the results of an undercount: Missouri lost one representative based on previous census figures. Census results also guide the distribution of the $675 billion in federal funding. If we lose even 1 percent from previous years’ counts, it could cost the region $48 million a year, resulting in a loss of power, influence, and likely decreased focus and mismatched investments in priorities, which will have real consequences for the next decade.
The census is also important closer to home. The data influence local planning for infrastructure like roads, schools, hospitals, and emergency services.
Despite all the good that can come from the census and its perceived impartiality, the count has historically missed disproportionate numbers of people of color, immigrants, young children, older adults, and low-income households.
A complete and accurate 2020 census is essential for advancing racial equity in the region. Those who are not counted are not represented.
People of color have been undercounted for decades, disadvantaging our families, communities, and neighborhoods. Perpetual disadvantages to segments of our nation threaten the integrity of our democracy as a whole.
At a time when democracy and the voices of communities of color in it are undergoing historic challenges, census count is of monumental importance. The census tells the story of who we are. It also helps us see how our communities have changed over time.
The deadline to complete the census has been extended to mid-August. Every household should have already received instructions in the mail about how to complete the census. You can call 2-1-1 or visit Census2020KC.org to learn more. Please encourage friends and family to take part and ensure our voices are represented.
Stephenie Smith is also a member of the 2020 Health Forward Board of Directors.