Let’s Get Out The Count!
This week’s blog come from Casey Farmer, McCarthy Center Board Member and the Executive Director of the Alameda County Complete Count Committee. She graduated from University of San Francisco in 2007 and participated in the McCarthy Center’s Honors Public Service Program. She lives in Oakland with her husband, Galen Wilson, a fellow USF alum.
With Census 2020 about to begin, I wonder what people really know about this pillar of democracy. You may know there was a failed attempt by the Trump administration to add a citizenship question. What you have not heard are the powerful ways that Bay Area counties and organizations are preparing to ensure that vulnerable communities get counted on Census 2020.
The Census is no ordinary form – it will determine our political power and federal funding for schools, roads, and hospitals for the entirety of the decade. It is required by the Constitution and it has been conducted since 1790. Its nine basic questions will take you about 10 minutes to complete and your response will bring back $10,000 over the course of the next 10 years. The Census is America’s headcount – used to inform our school districts where to grow, our city planners how communities have changed over time, and our elected officials about where our needs exist.
I lead Alameda County’s Census outreach efforts. Our philosophy is to engage “trusted messengers,” advocates and service providers who have credibility amongst our hard-to-count communities, including immigrants, unhoused neighbors, and low-income families. I’m uplifted and energized by their relentless drive to ensure their people are counted. Despite the challenges of this first digital census, language barriers and the terror caused by the now-removed citizenship question, and even a global pandemic – organizations are deeply committed to preventing an undercount. They are planning Census parties, Know-Your-Rights workshops, and setting up Questionnaire Assistance Centers to make the Census accessible to everyone. Hundreds of people have signed up to be Census Ambassadors for their faith communities, neighborhoods, or schools. They are adopting their blocks or encampments, they are educating their library patrons, and they are creating videos in languages which the Census Bureau is not providing translated materials. These advocates are truly defenders of democracy – they recognize that getting counted means getting our fair share of power and resources. They know that if marginalized communities are not counted, they will be further marginalized.
Our slogan in Alameda County is “Our Community Counts. Our Community Belongs.” We are ready for this fight. We are driven by what is at stake for our collective community.