election checklist, week two.

August 3, 2020

We have 92 days until the 2020 election in the US. That’s 13 weeks during which I’ll be trying my damnedest to get leaders elected who will move the dial toward equity, inclusion, and progressive policies that will do the least harm and the greatest good.

I love lists. I love checking things off of lists. I’d hazard the guess that lots of folks reading this do, too. So, every Monday until November, I’ll be listing one specific action to take in preparation of the election. Electoral politics won’t solve everything, but voting is a tool in the box and it needs to be sharpened, oiled, and ready for action.

Week Two: Fill out the Census.

Have you filled out the 2020 Census yet? The US Census tracks population in every state and determines how one of the most fundamental (if fraught) aspects of our democracy functions. Briefest history lesson: Way back when, at the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787, it was decided that the United States House of Representatives would use something called proportional representation, meaning that the number of representatives that each state sends to Congress in the House of Representatives are apportioned based on state population. State population is determined by—you guessed it—the Census. The data is also used in redistricting that determines where people elect their representatives to the House of Representatives, their state legislature, county or city councils, and school boards. And it’s not just about votes, it’s also about money. The Census provides the population data used for distributing federal funds for everything from schools to infrastructure to emergency services.

Wherever you are in the US, fill out the 2020 census. I filled mine out online a month or two ago and it was quick and easy. You can peck out the responses while binge-watching a TV show. You wouldn’t be wrong to fill it out on your phone while keeping one eye trained on kids in the sand box. You’d be very right to pass the responsibility along to someone else in your household. Last month, the Census Bureau began their in-person interviews for folks who still haven’t completed their census. If a Census taker knocks on your door, put on a mask and say hello.

Crucially, for a city like New York where many wealthy folks have taken an extended leave of absence from their primary residences, there’s a risk that non-responses from wealthy households this year will negatively affect the federal funds given to the state. (Funds that acutely impact the city’s lowest income communities.) Here’s the NYCLU on the consequences of folks failing to complete the census here: “Fewer responses mean our state risks losing out on New York’s share of $1.5 trillion in federal money distributed based on Census data. Money from the Census is used for an array of services including hospitals, first-responders, schools, SNAP benefits, and more.”

This matters.

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2 Comments

  • Reply Pat S August 4, 2020 at 11:04 am

    Filled out the census so long ago I don’t remember actually remember … maybe a couple of months? Or more. Time is so weird these days. Did an on line application for a mail in ballot yesterday. While I’m comfortable using the mail, I will probably give the post office a break and find out where I can just drop my ballot. Such an important year to vote. I cast my first vote when I was 21 and I will be 81 when I make this vote and I consider it to be the most important one of my lifetime.

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  • Reply SF August 6, 2020 at 2:16 pm

    Thank you for this series of posts. As an avid list-checker myself, I truly appreciate how you are sifting through the overwhelming options for enacting change and breaking it down into simple, can-do steps.

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