Civic Engagement

The census counts and so do you
by Shangé P., Local Community Member

With everything going on in the world right now it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the current state of divisiveness and political tension within our country. Amidst this turmoil perennial questions remain: What kind of say do I have? How do I make my voice heard? Do I even count in the larger scheme of things?

While many of these questions don’t have easy answers, the answer to the latter, at least, is an unequivocal yesYou count. The government belongs to you, and thus has an obligation to affirm your place in our nation. And the easiest way to make sure they do so – the most basic form of civic engagement everyone can participate in – is through the Census.

Every ten years our government is constitutionally mandated to conduct a count of every person living in the United States – the largest and most complicated of peace-time operations. And every ten years the success of this count varies. But what doesn’t vary is the role the count has in not only determining what our country looks like now, but what our country will look like over the course of the decade.

Across the country legislative districts will be redrawn. Congressional seats will be reallocated. Fire districts will be resized; school districts will be added or cut. And over $700 billion in federal funds will be redistributed every year for the next ten years to come. These funds are for building new roads; opening new hospitals and schools; financing public projects and programs. And all these things are directly contingent on the demographic information reported by the 2020 Census.

With so much at stake the importance of an accurate count seems paramount. And yet the stark reality is the government will fail in its lofty mission. Every person residing in the country will not be accounted for. Our population will go undercounted. The question is: by how much? That’s where you come in. We all have the responsibility to participate in this vast undertaking. We all have the chance to declare our right to count. And for the first time since the first census in 1790 we all have the option of self-responding online. Of course, this will be easier for some than others. Good thing we also have the option of responding by mail, phone, or door-to-door interviews as well. Every household will receive mailed instructions on how to do so come March.

We can even be part of the Census. The Seattle Census Office is hiring local residents to work as door-to-door census counters – or enumerators – this Spring and Summer. These jobs start at $23/hour in King County and fit around your schedule. They require you to traverse the neighborhoods you already live in and engage your neighbors. No experience is needed, and because it is temporary work the Census Bureau has taken steps to ensure wages associated with the Census will not count against eligibility requirements for most state and federal benefit programs..

With so much uncertainty facing us this is how we make this decade’s census a grassroots movement. This how we make it a count of the community, by the community, for the community. This is how we stand up and say – unequivocally – we count.

2020 Census Jobs: The U.S. Census Bureau is recruiting to fill hundreds of thousands of temporary positions across the country to assist with the 2020 Census count.

Local volunteer opportunities: