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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.

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