Published March 12, 2020 / Updated July 21, 2020
The 2020 Census
Brought to you by the number 435
Count Von Count of Sesame Street
The 2020 census is upon us and the 435 seats in the House of Representatives will rotate through their decennial shuffle for the 24th time. The results of the census will be used to divvy up those 435 seats between the 50 states. Some states will be apportioned more seats, others will lose them. And, who will win and who will lose is based upon the decline and/or growth of the population in each of the nation's congressional districts. The census is also used in distributing billions of dollars in federal funding to communities nationwide.
The history of census taking goes back to 3800 BCE when the Babylonian Empire used it to count things like livestock, honey, wool, and milk. In 2 CE, China's Han Dynasty's census counted 57.7 million people living in more than 12.4 million homes. In 1400 CE, the Inca, who did not have a written language, used a system of knots on string made from llama hair to conduct its census. In accordance with Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, the United States census of 1790 marks the first time one was used to count a population with the specific intent of determining governmental representation.
The 2020 census officially began on January 21st when the Census Bureaustarted counting the population in the remote village of Toksook Bay, Alaska. On March 12th and continuing through March 20th, the Bureau will be sending out invitations to participate in the 2020 census to every mailing address in the country. At last count, there were 159 million addresses in the U.S. alone. Participants will have their choice of three ways in which to respond: mail, phone, or online. The Bureau will also count the population of the District of Columbia and 5 U.S. territories.
Census Day is observed nationwide on April 1st and when you respond to the census, you'll tell the Bureau where you live as of that date. You can find a timeline of events for the census, which will culminate on March 31, 2021, on the Bureau's site.
Given what is at stake --- gaining another representative, or having to give one up --- it should not be surprising that census taking is an extremely important task. Maybe one of the most important democratic tasks called for in the Constitution. It should also not be surprising when it is tampered with, with an aim of benefiting one political party over another.
This is the first page of a sample copy of the 2020 Census form which will be sent to 159 million addresses across the country beginning next week.
This is the first page of the "Census" being mailed out by the GOP. Can we say "fake", boys and girls? All together now: "This is a fake census form."
This misleading survey is being disseminated by the GOP. Now, it does say "Commissioned by the Republican Party" right on it, but it also says "2020 Congressional District Census" and the envelope it comes in says "Official Mail" both of which are purposefully deceptive. Why? Because, if you can convince people that this is the census they have been hearing about, they are less likely to recognize the genuine article when it arrives in their mail. And, if you and I are not included in the census count, then our districts --- and thus our representation on the Hill --- may not change. And, if it does change, it may not be for the better which means more people are left with representation that does not really represent their interests. So beware; this **is not **the census that we have been looking for.
When gerrymandering is not enough, and erecting and reinforcing blockades to the franchise fall short of their mark, the GOP reaches ever deeper into their bag of tricks. Sadly, this is not the first time they have weaponized the census. In 2010, they did the exact same thing. And, when they did, Congress passed the Prevent Deceptive Census Look Alike Mailings Act which was enacted on April 7, 2010.
Not surprisingly, it is not just the GOP as a political party that is engaging in a campaign of misinformation and deceit where the census is concerned.
Despite Facebook's December 19, 2019 announcement regarding the creation of its "census interference policy," they have allowed the Trump campaign to run more than 1,000 ads designed to further confuse and mislead U.S. citizens. The campaign's ads on Facebook "exploit [the] sense of civic duty to collect American's personal information" and appear to directly violate Facebook's newly enacted policy. However, Facebook refused to take the ads down. That is until yesterday, after the publication of an article on Popular.info. Within 5 hours of that article, Facebook did an about-face, stating that "[u]pon further review, these ads are currently being taken down given the policies in place to prevent confusion around the official U.S. Census." Thanks, Facebook for following your own, newly enacted policy.
Folks, the results of the 2020 census will have an impact on the next decade in terms of congressional representation and federal funding. Given all that we are fighting for, we cannot allow the GOP and Trump campaign to get away with intentionally misleading Americans about such an important issue. The consequences are far too great.
What you can do
Send state or president to Resistbot and tell them both that you will not tolerate efforts by the GOP or Trump Campaign to weaponize the census. Let them know that you intend to stand and be counted on April 1st.
And, keep your eyes peeled for your invitation from the Census Bureau to participate in the 2020 census.