IMPORTANT ISSUES | CENSUS COUNT ACCURACY
IMPORTANT ILLINOIS ISSUES
CENSUS COUNT ACCURACY
Illinois legislators have the ability to invest in processes and technology that results in effective and accurate counts. Census counts help determine state budgets and how our communities receive fair funding.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
The United States Constitution requires a census to be taken every ten years to determine how many seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives. According to the language of the Constitution, the census figures are based on actual counts of all persons that live in a state, including citizens, non-citizen legal residents and undocumented residents. Special procedures are used to captured data on those that do not live in conventional housing. Unfortunately, there are several communities that have historically been undercounted, including communities of color, urban and rural low-income households, immigrants and young children.
Since 1841, the United States Census Bureau has been responsible for planning and conducting the census, and reporting its results. Over the years, as the nation’s need for population and economic data have become more demanding, the costs of administering the census have continued to rise. As a result, the last census, conducted in 2010, was not only the most expensive in American History (totaling approximately $12.5 billion), but it was also the largest peacetime mobilization of citizens that our nation has ever seen. In an effort to control these costs, for much of this decade, the U.S. Congress has substantially pared back its spending on the Census Bureau. Years of underfunding, leadership vacancies at the very top of the organization, and a proposed citizenship question have left many census experts fearful that the Census Bureau will be unable to obtain a fair an accurate count during the 2020 Census.
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT ME?
Illinois cannot afford to be undercounted in the 2020 Census. The data that is collected by the Census Bureau serves as the basis for the $19.7 billion that the state receives in federal funds for highways, health care, law enforcement and more. Our businesses rely upon that same data to market their products and expand their operations. But, we don’t just stand to lose our elements of our core infrastructure with an undercount, we will also lose our political voice.
Census data is used to draw the maps that our state government uses to create voting districts. The net migration out of our state in recent years (and the growth elsewhere) have led experts to conclude that Illinois will lose at least one of its eighteen seats in the U.S House of Representatives, and perhaps as many as two. Each lost congressman is one less vote our state will have in the Electoral College that selects the president and vice president.
WHERE DO ILLINOIS LEGISLATORS STAND?
Given its diminished resources, the Census Bureau is heavily relying upon state governments, nonprofits and community advocates to assist in its outreach to local communities. This need is especially important in this politically charged atmosphere where the distrust of government and a fear over how it will use census data will make it harder to reach some of our most vulnerable communities.
Our politicians have the opportunity to protect our access to federal funds and political voice by investing in community outreach, communications and messaging technologies, and the development of a statewide plan to let everyone know about the importance of the census and how the data will be used.
WHAT CAN I DO?
- Call your state legislators & ask them to support funding for census outreach work
- Call your federal legislator & ask them to ensure that the Census Bureau has the funds it needs to do a complete count
- Call your federal legislator and ask them to fight against the inclusion of a citizenship question on the questionnaire
- Support your local complete count commission (if one exists in your town)
- Volunteer with groups like Common Cause, Illinois Coalition of Immigrant & Refugee Rights or Asian Americans Advancing Justice & help them with their census outreach work
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