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Strength in numbers: 6 key takeaways about the Census

David Litt, Rebecca DeHart, and Dr. Jeanine Abrams McLean joined us for cocktails and conversation about the Census and voting.

The Mobilize crew cozied up for cocktails and conversation with former Obama speechwriter and New York Times best-selling author David Litt as we celebrated his new book Democracy in One Book or Less: How It Works, Why It Doesn’t, and Why Fixing It Is Easier Than You Think. Litt joined us to talk about the Census, voter suppression, and what we can do to protect 2020 elections.

In his latest book, Litt sets out to explore our current understanding of the state of democracy, the gap between what the US population wants and what our elected leaders do, and how we can fix our political system before it’s too late.

A major point of discussion was the 2020 Census. Rebecca DeHart and Dr. Jeanine Abrams McLean from Fair Count, a nonprofit group (and Mobilize partner!) dedicated to mobilizing communities around the 2020 Census, also joined us.

“The Census isn’t sexy. It isn’t the sexiest thing going on right now, but it probably is the most important,” said McLean of Fair Count. Litt drove home the point that if everyone fills out the census, we end up with more power and representation in congress.

Key takeaways from our chat with David Litt and Fair Count

1. Ultimately, the Census gets to the heart of the question “who matters?” versus “who counts?” We have to distinguish between the two questions. Whose votes are actually tabulated? How much power do you actually have depending on your zip code? This is why the census matters. If more people participate, then you have more power. We are facing a problem where some people’s voices “matter” way more than others.

2. In the 2010 census, there were massive undercounts. Millions of people were missedincluding members of homeless, immigrant, LGBTQ+, racial, and ethnic populations. Historically, white owners are over counted while others are undercounted. The census hasn’t kept up with how people are added or how best to keep people included. If we have a more accurate count, it makes it less difficult to disenfranchise and more difficult to gerrymander.

3. More than $850 billion was distributed in the fiscal year of 2016 based on census data. Planners use this data to decide where schools, hospitals, and roads should be built. This data is also used by businesses to determine their locations. The 2020 census will direct approximately $1.5 trillion to communities over the next ten years.

4. The onus has been put on communities to participate in the census and to vote. We are told that people who don’t participate or don’t vote can’t complain—but in fact, the people who complain cannot vote. People with lower barriers to perform their civic duties experience no difficulties participating in the political process.

5. Waiting in line to vote has become an act of defiance. Voting purges where eligible voters are taken off of the roles directly lead to long lines. When you show up and your name isn’t on the list, it increases the time of your voting process. If you add 2-3 minutes per voter that drastically increases the size of voting lines. When you see a long line, it hints that something has gone wrong with the system and process.

6. Long lines and poorly run elections are not just a red state problem. There is evidence that multiple states have attempted to purposely make their voting process miserable for voters. The most important thing that we can do now is create a ricochet. If people are trying this hard to withhold your ballot then that means that they know the value of your vote.

What are 5 simple steps that we can take today to protect our vote?

  1. Commit to be Counted with Fair Count! The deadline to complete the census has been extended to October 31, 2020.
  2. Find local and virtual volunteer opportunities to join the fight for equity.
  3. Call your local representatives and ensure that there is funding for vote-by-mail.
  4. Learn more about your local elections and candidates. Vote early!
  5. Already involved with an organization? Then unlock the full potential of your supporters.

If you missed our chat with David Litt and Fair Count, don’t fret. Visit the entire conversation below—and don’t forget to grab your cocktail!

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