The census is a count of every person living in the United States. Taken every decade, the census count impacts most aspects of American political representation and federal resource allocation.
Naomi Piper-Pell is a Census Youth Ambassador with Building Healthy Communities. In a recent interview they explained, “The census is applicable to pretty much everything. Everything from representation in Congress which affects the legislative priorities in this country, to school lunch programs, programs for the elderly, emergency services, educational science and technology programs, college housing. Just pretty much roads, schools, hospitals, anything that gets federal funding is determined by the census count.”
The census, originally established in Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution was formed as a nonpartisan method of counting all people residing in the United States in order to ensure adequate resources are available to all. The census will not ask for a party affiliation, however many politicians and organizers are concerned that issues surrounding the census have partisan motivations.
Recent developments surrounding the census such as the proposed (and eventually blocked) citizenship question and the change in submission deadline are being widely speculated to be politically motivated.
Piper-Pell continued, “I have no clear explanation for the reason, I have my own political speculations about it. But they kind of just said that it’s getting moved up earlier in the year, the Census Bureau actually asked for an extension through I believe April of 2021, and the House approved that but the Senate never got to it.”
“Just last week, the Census Bureau said that the deadline had been moved up, moving the cutoff from October 31 to September 30. I have not heard a clear explanation of why but I believe people can speculate why.”
The changes in deadline and the spread of false information surrounding the census is not going to impact all groups equally. Piper-Pell continued, “It is going to be detrimental to communities of color, especially Hispanic and Native communities who are already pretty hard to count.”
“The Trump administration has been trying very hard to make it harder for those communities to be counted in the first place. They tried to add the citizenship question way back in the beginning of his administration and that got shut down. And now that they are trying to move up the census date with the COVID-19 crisis they are making it double as hard to count communities that really do need to be counted.”
One important fact about the census is that it is extremely user-friendly and simple to complete. Piper-Pell concluded, “Go and fill out the census right now. It takes five minutes, you can call in, fill it out online. It will ask for your name, the number of people who live in your house, and the ages of people in your house. It makes a world of difference and only takes five or six minutes.”