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Why the Census is important

Lisa McLean
state OFM

Counties and cities already are gearing up to ensure that no one goes uncounted in the April 2020 Census, Lisa McLean told a crowd of about 30 at Hal Holmes Center on March 29.

McLean, coordinator of the state Complete Count Committee at the Office of Financial Management, said the federal government hopes to collect 60 percent of census responses electronically, either by computer, tablet or smart phone.

Washington received over $16 billion in 2016 based on census figures, so an accurate count is essential to the state’s ability to get a fair share of federal and state funding, McLean said.

In addition, census data is used to distribute political power by drawing election boundaries for federal, state and local districts.

Responding to the census is required by law, she said. “It’s a civic duty, like jury duty. The motto is ‘Count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.’ “

The first notices to answer the census questions will go out in mid-March 2020. Those who do not respond will receive reminder notices, and non-responders ultimately will be contacted in person.

“The only headlines anyone’s read about the census is the citizenship question,” McLean said.

In March 2018, the Commerce Department announced that a question of citizenship would be included in the 2020 Census. This was requested by the Department of Justice, which said it was needed to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Many states, including Washington, filed suit to stop inclusion of the citizenship question on the census. supporters of the lawsuits say the purpose of the question is to discourage non-citizens from responding. Although the lawsuits were successful in lower-court rulings, the issue has reached the Supreme Court, and court watchers say the highest court is likely to approve inclusion of the question.

However, McLean said, although respondents are asked if they are citizens, there is no followup question to those who answer “No.”

Wednesday’s forum was sponsored by CWU’s James E. Brooks Library, Kittitas Valley League of Women Voters, and Ellensburg Public Library. It was the first of three forums on the 2020 census to be held before Census Day, April 1, 2020. The next forum will be held on Oct. 9, and the third will be in March 2020.

Chief organizer of the three forums is Aimee Quinn, assistant professor and government publications library at CWU Brooks Library, and member of Kittitas Valley League of Women Voters.

Here are some helpful links about Census 2020:

State Census 2020 website

Federal Census 2020 website

WA Gov. Jay Inslee’s letter to mayors about providing information regarding new housing developments that will be completed before Census Day 2020

Map of Kittitas County’s hard-to-count areas

Supreme Court’s likely stance on the citizenship question

Late-breaking story on why the citizenship question was added by the Trump administration:

New York Times

LA Times

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