Census Day is April 1

This is an important year for one of the most basic functions of the constitution. We’re not talking about voting in local elections this spring or the presidential election this fall. We’re talking about the U.S. census.

The U.S. census is a national headcount that happens once every 10 years. The census counts every person in our country from infants and elders in nursing homes, to inmates and college students in dorms. Census takers also include people experiencing homelessness, citizens and immigrants. The 2020 census will be a snapshot of who is living in America. 

This year, it will be important to “Make Black Count” because the survey includes questions about the racial or ethnic identities of members of each household, the snapshot will be a powerful way for us to demonstrate our diversity. 

The greater Madison community has changed a lot in the past 10 years. The census is the most well-established measure of a community’s racial and economic diversity. It can only be accurate, however, if people participate. 

Participation is important because our social services and political representation depend on it. 

Legislative boundaries are drawn based on census data. Redistricting can be complicated and impacted by politics. However, when we want redistricting that allows neighborhoods to stay intact and have one representative who votes for their interests, we must have accurate census numbers that show our racial and economic diversity. 

Important social services are decided and funded based on census data. Over $675,000,000,000 of federal funding is distributed each year based, in whole or in part, on census information – over $2,000 per person counted in Madison. Federal and local tax dollars that fund schools, homeless shelters, busses, domestic violence survivor support shelters, health education programs, and more are distributed based on census data. Social and political scientists use census data for research on trends. As Madison grows, decisions about social services that make a difference in meeting the needs of everyone in our community need to be based on an accurate measurement of diversity in the community. 

The 2020 census is simple, but there is a lot at stake. The good news is that women of color are stepping up to lead the efforts to make sure everyone in Madison is counted. The city of Madison’s Complete Count Committee members includes chair Rep. Shelia Stubbs, vice chair Brenda Gonzalez, Alder Barbara Harrington-McKinney, and Corinda Rainey-Moore who are working with local leaders to make sure residents are ready to take the census online starting in mid-March. 

The census has its controversies. Attempts to include citizenship questions were thrown out by the courts. Questions on the census cover the age, race and relationship of each person living or staying in your household. No personally identifiable information may be shared with anyone outside of the Census Bureau. 

Although some people may still have privacy concerns, individual responses to the census survey cannot be shared with landlords, creditors, or employers. Responses cannot be shared with immigration officials. Your participation in the census is confidential and protected by law. 

This year, we have a chance to Make Black Count. Make Black Count! was the outreach campaign conducted by the Coalition for a Black Count, a project composed of 13 civil rights organizations spearheaded by the National Urban League under the leadership of former Executive Director Whitney M. Young, Jr.

It’s important to demonstrate what our homes, our neighborhoods, and our city truly look like by filling out our census forms and encouraging our friends and neighbors to do the same. People living in single-family homes, duplexes, apartments, and condominiums will receive information from the Census Bureau in mid-March of 2020.  People living in group quarters, such as college dormitories and nursing homes, will participate sooner – sometime in February 2020.  Census staff will work with the city, county, and area service providers to reach homeless residents through a special canvas to make sure that those without a permanent address are counted.

Each household will receive a postcard with instructions to fill out your household’s census survey online in March. Once you receive the postcard you can fill out the form online using your computer, tablet, or smartphone. If you prefer assistance or need access to a computer, all Madison Public Libraries will have computers and librarians ready
to help. 

Internet census forms and assistance will be available in the top 12 languages spoken by limited-English-speaking households. There will also be language glossaries and guides for a total of 59 non-English languages, including Hmong. 

We want everyone to participate in census 2020 and are eager to help. We encourage organizations and churches to make Census materials available and can help you spread the word. If you would like materials or assistance, please visit cityofmadison.com/2020Census or 2020census.gov.