Tribal Citizens Aim to Increase 2020 Census Count
Phoenix, AZ – Native Public Media and the National Congress of American Indians announced their Census 2020 joint campaign to help Tribes and tribal citizens increase their participation in the Census 2020 survey. Census 2020 Public Service Announcements are being heard on Native stations beginning with Alaska.
The Census occurs every 10 years and the data from it helps the federal and state governments, tribal governments, business, and communities make decisions. The data can help inform where tribal communities need funding for school lunches, Pell grants, new roads, or veterans and elderly services, to name a few. The 2020 Census will also provide a snapshot of U.S. populations and provide information such as where we live, how we are employed, and who we are.
For Indian Country, the 2020 Census is important in three critical ways: First, it is about the resources we receive through federal and state programs, how much, and for whom. An undercount of babies or children for example, will result in less funding or resources for headstart or preschool. An undercount of tribal citizens can also contribute to the underfunding of Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service, and other federal/state programs for the next 10 years.
Second, the 2020 Census is about redistricting. Redistricting is the way districts are adjusted every ten years for the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures. Once the 2020 Census releases new population figures for all 50 states, seats in the U.S. House are adjusted accordingly. Some states gain seats, some states lose seats, and some keep the same number of seats. Congressional seats and state legislative seats must be drawn to create districts that are equal (or as close to as possible) in population.
This leads to the final and critical importance of representation. Redistricting can lead to significant changes in the people who represent Tribes and tribal citizens in the U.S. House and in the government-to-government relationship with state representatives. If one party, republican or democrat, gains political control over a district, this can lead to gerrymandering or big changes including resource allocation and even voting power. Gerrymandering is basically drawing odd-shaped districts based on political reasons by the dominant party most often to sustain power long term.
The 2020 Census survey will largely be available online. For tribal members, either on or off reservation, this is a huge deal if Internet connection is limited. Many states will also provide redundant opportunities for the 2020 Census survey to be completed by telephone or on a paper survey. It will be important to find out what will be available in your community.