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Updated: Aug 8, 2019

From Left: MassVOTE Policy Intern Sarah Kaplan, MIRA Field Director Liza Ryan, Executive Director Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, ACLU of MA Racial Justice Director Rashaan Hall.

In late June, The U.S. Supreme Court decided to halt the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. In a 5-4 opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said there was "a significant mismatch between" Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross' decision to add the question "and the rationale he provided."

Statewide and local advocates flocked to the State-House steps on June 27th to praise the court's decision. Attorney General Maura Healey joined activists from several organizations including MassVOTE. Healey was one of 18 attorneys general who filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration decision to add the question. At the event, she said: "It (The 2020 Census) determines our representation in Congress; it determines our representation in the electoral college; it determines what we are going to receive as a state for federal funding that will help schools and transportation and healthcare and so many other important services." Healey also stressed the importance of immigrants in Massachusetts, detailing that one in five workers is born outside the United States, making immigrants 17% of the population.

Beth Huang, of the Massachusetts Voter Table, encouraged supporters to remind people expressing fears over their immigration statuses their census responses cannot be shared with landlords, employers or law enforcement.

Gladys Vega, of the Chelsea Collaborative, said she and others would make sure everyone, including non-citizens, is counted, saying: "We will work extremely hard, we will knock on every door."

The impacts of an undercounted Census last a decade. The decennial census impacts $16 billion (40% of the state budget) in funding for our Commonwealth and directly accounts for $1.2 billion in funding for vital programs in Massachusetts. For example, some allotments directly affected by census population counts include: Special Education Grants to States, Title 1 Grants to Local Education Agencies, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Community Development Block Grants, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and many others.

We have already seen the impact the census has had in Massachusetts. In 2010, when Congressman Barney Frank lost his seat due to his district undercount and thus condensed. The loss took the Congressional representation of the Massachusetts delegation from 10 to 9 in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In a statement, Bill Galvin, who oversees the Census count, described himself as pleased with the outcome, and further detailed: "While the Court has held that the federal government cannot go forward with the printing of 2020 Census questionnaires that include a citizenship question unless they provide a valid and non-pretextual reason for doing so, I remain concerned that any attempt by the federal government to further delay the printing of census forms would jeopardize our ability to get a complete and accurate count."

MassVOTE and our allies believe that democratic participation is crucial for having accurate and accountable representation in our government. By not filling out the census, we risk the vital programs and representation needed for communities to function. An accurate count supports funding for our community services and ensures fair political representation.

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