OPINION: Washington Communities of Color Push for 2020 Census Representation

by Anand Balasubrahmanyan

With the Trump administration cutting census staff and adding a “citizenship question,” the 2020 census has become an intense battleground for political representation for communities of color. The stakes are high, especially for a state that is growing as quickly as Washington. The census count determines billions of federal dollars for schools, roads, and hospitals, as well as the number of seats Washington will have in the house of representatives.

In Washington, 1.6 million people are at risk of going uncounted. That’s more people than the entire population of Montana.

The struggle for an accurate census has caused community groups across the state to step up and conduct outreach to ensure their families and neighbors are counted. This spring, over 70 Washington organizations led by people of color joined together to advocate for state funding to cover the gaps in census outreach.

Their advocacy resulted in the first step towards a complete census count when the state legislature invested $15 million dollars for census outreach. In June and July, community organizations will have the chance to apply for a portion of these funds to conduct outreach. Community-based organizations are the best positioned to work with those who face barriers to participating in the census because they have the relationships, language skills and cultural capacity to ensure an accurate count.

Now leaders around the state are raising awareness of the importance of the census in an on-going push for public resources and fair representation. “Everyone deserves to be counted in the census—no exceptions,” said Michael Byun, Executive Director of Asian Counseling and Referral Services. “Together, we will all benefit.”

Featured Image: Washington Census Alliance (Courtesy Photo)