The 2020 Census–Foundation of Redistricting, and So Much More

Reapportionment (the allocation of Congressional seats based on population) and redistricting (the redrawing of boundaries for the U. S. House and state House and Senate districts) depend on an accurate, timely and complete census. Our every-decade population count also establishes guidelines for allocation of federal funds for a wide range of programs. However, there are major hurdles facing the 2020 census.

Funding is always an issue. The most immediate threat is the government shutdown. The Census Bureau is closed during the shutdown, but carryover funding from 2018 is continuing preparations for 2020. That money will eventually run out. The cost of the 2020 census is estimated at $15.6 billion, and a prolonged funding stalemate could be disastrous.

Another threat is the proposal that the census include a question on citizenship. The census is supposed to be a count of total population, not citizens, and there is concern that the question could discourage responses, even from legally documented workers. This issue is going before the U. S. Supreme Court, with oral arguments scheduled for February.

Cybersecurity threats are another serious concern. Last year the Census Bureau identified close to 3,100 security weaknesses in the IT systems for the census. Fixing these is a big job.

Will there be enough workers? For the 2010 census the government hired about 635,000 temporary workers but the low unemployment rate is making hiring difficult in 2019.

Finally, there is concern that the census will undercount communities of color and other hard-to-count populations. This concern has been heightened because the Justice Department has raised the possibility of accessing census data to force release of confidential census responses earlier than the 72 years after collection required by law.

The census is central. The American people must support efforts to ensure that it is accurate, timely, and that there are no exceptions to the well-justified confidentiality of responses. We all depend on it!


An Opportunity to Learn!

Does My Vote Even Count? A Forum on Election Reform on Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 5:30 pm to 7 pm at the Richland County Library Main Auditorium , 1431 Assembly Street, Columbia provides a chance to learn about Redistricting.

The forum panelists will include SC House Representatives Beth Bernstein, Gary Clary, Kirkman Finlay and Senator Mia S. McLeod of the State Senate, plus Dr. Duncan Buell, Professor of Computer Science at the University of South Carolina and recognized expert on voting technology and security and Dr. John Ruoff, a recognized authority on voting rights and redistricting in South Carolina.

These experts and legislators will address how proposed South Carolina legislation would require unbiased criteria and a non-partisan commission in charge of redrawing our state voting district lines after the 2020 census.

They will also discuss South Carolina’s purchase of a new voting system to replace the current aged out system — a new system that will ensure secure, accurate, transparent and verifiable elections.

The Journey Begins!

We are on our way to doing important work for South Carolina. We are so glad you have joined us to explore what we can do to ensure that voters choose their representatives, rather than representatives choosing their voters.

Here’s what the trail may look like as we see it now. It’s going to be a long trek –2019 through 2022.

During 2019 and 2020, we will support legislation for an independent redistricting commission and appropriate criteria for drawing election district lines. At present, a bipartisan bill, H. 3054, sponsored by Rep. Gary Clary and others, is our preferred approach but other bills have been filed that would represent a significant improvement over previous criteria and processes. Our main task at present will be to create awareness of the need for the commission and criteria reform and to build public support for these changes. We will also work on providing data to draw better lines after the 2020 census.

In addition , we will follow developments in the courts and in other states to see what we can learn from their experience. We will identify problems with existing districts at all levels that need to be addressed. And, finally, we will encourage citizens to respond to the census — the starting point for every good thing we want to happen!

In 2020-2021, we will seek to empower local Leagues to address redistricting for city, county and school board elections.

And, in 2020-2021, we will be on the lookout for opportunities to contribute to the process in every way possible. We’ll keep a close watch on proposals as they develop and comment on them. And, if the final maps don’t meet our standards or our criteria, we will be prepared to litigate — yes, litigate! We are going the whole way. So, pick up your backpacks, put on the boots, find those walking sticks — we’re off on a long South Carolina hike from the mountains to the sea — with a long stopover at the State Capitol in Columbia!

Linda Powers Bilanchone