An accurate 2020 census is critical to ensuring that every child, every family and every community receives the appropriate share of the $675 billion the federal government allocates to communities across the country each year.
This funding supports critical investments like child care, food assistance, health care, roads and public schools. Census data also determines the number of congressional districts in each state to ensure people are represented fairly in our democracy.
As members of the statewide Census Historically Undercounted Populations Subcommittee, we are committed to doing all we can to make sure we count those who are most likely to be missed by the census, such as families with young children, the elderly, immigrants, people with insecure housing, people with disabilities, and Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color.
A successful 2020 census requires counting every community and effectively following up with those who have not already responded. That task is challenging under usual circumstances, but even more so during a pandemic.
Unfortunately, we have also seen several actions from the federal government that have made achieving an accurate count even harder. There were attempts to add a citizenship question to the census in order to intimidate immigrant communities and cause confusion, as well as attempts to exclude those who are undocumented from the reapportionment data that determines congressional districts.
And the recent decision to change the response deadline from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30 will mean historically undercounted groups may continue to miss out on the resources they deserve. Leaving children out of the census reduces federal resources for their schools, their child care, their health care, and many other programs essential for their well-being — not just for this year, but for an entire decade.
The federal government must not be allowed to exclude these groups and other communities from their constitutionally guaranteed right to participate in the 2020 census, and the U.S. Census Bureau must have the time and space it needs for a safe and accurate count.
Thankfully, we have seen legal challenges successfully stop some of these dangerous changes. In response to a lawsuit filed by Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul and other states, a three-judge panel unanimously declared that attempts to exclude undocumented immigrants from reapportionment data were unlawful. Additionally, a federal judge in California recently stopped the U.S. Census Bureau from winding down counting activities while courts decide whether the changes to the timeline should be upheld.
Congress has the power to give people more time to respond to the census as well. We strongly urge them to do so. We encourage everyone to contact their federal lawmakers and demand that they extend the deadline for people to respond. But in the meantime, we have to take the state’s future into our own hands and do everything we can to ensure a complete and accurate count of every child, family and community across Wisconsin, especially those that have been underrepresented in the past.
It’s not too late to be visible and be counted. Take a few moments today to go to my2020Census.gov and fill out the census online, or call 1-844-330-2020. If we all take action now, we can strengthen our democracy and ensure our communities have the resources they need for schools, health care, and roads for the next decade.
Rep. Shelia Stubbs, D-Madison, represents the state's 77th Assembly District. Ken Taylor serves as the executive director and CEO of Kids Forward. Ted Bunck is a member of the Dane County Area Agency on Aging Board and Legislative/Advocacy Committee.
The Historically Undercounted Populations Subcommittee is a part of the statewide Complete Count Committee for the 2020 census created by Gov. Tony Evers in Executive Order #55. The subcommittee is charged with ensuring Wisconsin's historically undercounted populations are accurately and completely counted in the census.