Commentary

Don’t play into Trump’s voter suppression scheme: Complete the census

As Americans struggle with the COVID-19 outbreak, attacks on our democracy by a sitting president, racial unrest, the militarization of law enforcement, and gridlocked legislative bodies, many do not have time to think about how the next 10 years will play out in American democracy.

But we must. You see, in 2020 America must collect data to determine how it will divide its limited resources for the next 10 years.

Little is being said about the 2020 census of late as the nation’s airwaves are dominated by the president’s mindless press conferences, a deadlocked Congress that cannot implement any useful legislation and police militarization against peaceful protesters. Granted, these are all topics that need and deserve the public’s attention. However, the 2020 census is as important, if not more important, than any of these challenges. In fact, the successful implementation of the census will have an impact upon all these issues.

Many minorities are wary of the census, fearing that “Big Brother” is trying to keep tabs on them. It is an understandable fear, but one that is being used to suppress much needed minority participation in the process. You see, the census helps determine how federal dollars will be used in local communities.

That means that an undercount in your community may mean that vital community services won’t get the dollars they need to support improvement in city services. It may mean that you don’t get a city council person to represent your area. It may mean that potholes in your community don’t get fixed. You might be denied a congressional representative. There might not be a public school or hospital built in your community. Maybe you will end up with fewer fire stations than you need. You might not have a public works department that can adequately maintain your streets, or pick up your trash. The census affects things like youth programs, senior meals, healthcare and housing assistance.

So if you care about the conditions you live in…if you care about your community…then you care about the census. You see, in 2010, the last time a census was taken, conservatives were the majority in most statehouses around the country. The data collected in the census is used to determine how many national and state legislators will be apportioned to your community. Because the legislature in most states were empowered to craft district lines, they were able to use the data from 2010 to draw voting districts that placed all the power in their hands across much of the country. It is called gerrymandering. These gerrymandered districts resulted in political districts drawn in such a way that only one party benefited. By drawing lines with conservative voters in the majority, they were able to sweep statehouses across the country and to win majorities in the United States Congress and statehouses nationwide.

If you want to have an impact on how your community is governed, you need to fill out the census. Donald Trump will not be sending his goons to your door. The census will not trigger a follow-up on a delinquent ticket or warrant. It is not a way to determine whether undocumented people are in your home. You do not have to talk to the census taker who knocks on your door. You can fill out the census form on the internet. It only takes a few minutes. The questions are not overly invasive.

A depressed census is the Number One voter suppression technique. Don’t let your love of privacy or fear of an overreaching government keep you from participating in this vital activity. Just like voting, participating in the census is the duty of every American and it is the privilege of every resident. Make sure your community is rightfully reflected in the 2020 Census so that the distribution of resources over the next 10 years will meet your community’s needs. Visit my2020census.gov to fill out your census questionnaire. Please, do it today.

Mildred Robertson is a veteran public relations professional whose background includes more than 30 years of leadership in management, government and public relations. She lives in Raleigh.