2020 is an election year and a Census year. Our ballots—as always—are pulsing with critical issues: affordable healthcare, racial justice, LGBTQ+ equity, reproductive rights, education, and access to clean air and water. Meanwhile we are conducting the Census—our once-in-ten-years opportunity to lay the foundation for equitable distribution of essential services and readjust our representation in Congress and the Electoral College.
But 2020 is like no other election or Census year in living memory.
We are enduring a global pandemic that, in less than 8 months, has taken the lives of more than 180,000 Americans and disrupted our daily lives – including field operations for the 2020 Census. As the Census Bureau amended timelines and operations, the President issued a memo in late July that threatened to manipulate Census data after its collection for the purposes of Congressional redistricting and reapportionment.
This memo – and the rhetoric that surrounds it – creates unnecessary fear and threatens to undermine an already complicated count of all people who reside in the United States. We stand against fear and intimidation in all forms and firm in our commitment to ensuring an accurate and complete count in the Census.
Despite the President’s memo, the Census is prohibited under federal law from using the data against individuals or communities. Our partners at the Ohio Census Advocacy Coalition and Children’s Defense Fund Ohio implore us to remember these important facts:
- The 2020 Census does not ask for citizenship or immigration status.
- Census responses are confidential and secure for 72 years. Federal law protects responses and they can only be seen by the Census Bureau to produce anonymous statistics. They cannot be shared with ICE, police, landlords, state or federal agencies, or anyone else. And, it will not affect any public benefits.
- The Constitution requires the census to count everyone living in the United States. There is no exception for citizenship or immigration status.
- Federal law requires all adults to respond to the census (the census asks for one response per household). There is no exception for citizenship or immigration status.
Voting and participation in the Census are indeed powerful tools granted to all Americans by the Constitution, to demand accountability and shape public policy. The more we participate—in both the election and the Census— the more capacity we will have to create policies and systems that promote racial, economic, and health equity.
We recognize that fears of the misuse of Census information and attempts to create confusion around the safety and security of our elections will affect us differently based on our race, ethnicity, class, citizenship status, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and health. It is because of this that we must dispel misinformation, connect our respective communities with the resources to access the ballot, and participate in the Census.
Together, we must take action in the following ways:
- Respond to the Census online (gov), over the phone (844-330-2020 EN or 844-468-2020 ES), or by mail. The online response portal and the Census hotline are available in 60 languages. For more information visit 2020Census.gov.
- Register to vote by Oct. 5 online or by visiting an Equitas Health Medical Center during business hours. Our front desk staff have voter registration and absentee ballot request forms available upon request – we’ll even mail them back in for you!
- Make a plan to vote, and then make a backup plan. Whether you prefer voting absentee by mail, early in-person, or on Election Day it is imperative that you know how you can vote in this election. For more information about absentee by mail or in-person early voting, visit MyOhioVote.com.
We want to make it clear – our commitment to justice and equity extend beyond November 3 (Election Day). We will continue to fight for equitable public policy outcomes that extend from the Census questionnaire, to the ballot box, and to the doctor’s office.