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U.S. Census results are used to draw district lines, allocate seats in Congress, and distribute government funding for essential services. The Brennan Center is fighting to ensure a fair and accurate census.

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Why It Matters

Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a count of everyone living in the U.S. The results are used to decide how many seats each state should have in Congress, draw district boundaries for everything from congressional seats to local city council districts, as well as to allocate government funds for education, public services, and more. 

But with the 2020 census approaching, concern is growing about how accurate the count will be. The Trump administration’s failed effort to add an untested question on citizenship status has sown fear and confusion about the safety of participating in the count. Increasing distrust of the federal government could further depress response rates in high-risk communities. Insufficient funding for the Census Bureau’s basic operations also could lead to a high number of missed people. And the 2020 survey will be the first to be conducted largely online, raising new data security and accessibility challenges. 

There’s still time to get things on track. The Brennan Center for Justice helped block the citizenship question, and we’ve launched a far-reaching advocacy, organizing, and public education campaign to ensure a fair and accurate census. With some hard work, we can make sure that everyone counts. 

Solutions

Support a Fair and Accurate Census

Congress should approve sufficient funding to ensure a complete and accurate count in 2020.

Promote Census Participation, Including by Advertising the Absence of Citizenship Questions

The Census Bureau should undertake advertising campaigns in multiple languages to assure affected populations that no citizenship question will appear on the 2020 Census and that the information they provide to the census cannot be used against them.

Vigorously Enforce Laws Protecting Confidentiality

The law is very clear that census responses must remain confidential and cannot be used against individuals in any way. The government should broadcast its commitment to maintain census confidentiality and put in place stronger safeguards against misuse.

Read more in our Democracy solutions report.