Las Vegas Sun

October 20, 2019

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Nevada committee turns its attention to boosting participation in 2020 census

Kate Marshall

Christopher DeVargas

Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall, shown in this Oct. 20, 2018, file photo, is heading up the Nevada Complete Count Committee for the 2020 census.

The Nevada Complete Count Committee is moving forward in its efforts to raise awareness around the 2020 census, despite the recent political fights in Washington over including a citizenship question on census forms.

The committee, formed by Gov. Steve Sisolak in April, is led by Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall and is tasked with increasing Nevadans’ participation in the census.

Marshall said the committee was working to make Nevadans aware of the importance of participating in the once-every-decade census.

“For each Nevadan that is not counted, the state runs the risk of losing roughly $20,000 in federal funding,” she said. “Nevadans can’t afford to not be counted, and it’s our job to make sure everyone regardless of age, sex, race, citizenship status, urban or rural, knows when and where to get counted.”

The committee has met once but Marshall said the group would meet “on a regular basis to put in the groundwork necessary to ensure every Nevadan is counted.” Mailing of census forms will begin en masse in March.

Whether to include a citizenship question was seemingly decided last month when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Trump administration’s reasoning for including the question did not line up with the evidence introduced in litigation. Democrats had long pushed back against the inclusion of the question, claiming that it would have a cooling effect on the participation of some minority groups. Despite the justice’s ruling and a looming deadline to begin printing census forms, the Census Bureau and Justice Department, at the urging at President Donald Trump, began exploring how they still could include the citizenship question on the forms.

A reluctant Trump announced Thursday the government would step away from the question and instead directed all federal agencies to forward records of citizens and non-citizens to the Census Bureau.

The concern about losing responses with a citizenship question is linked to the overall population count.

The final count produced by the decennial census is used to apportion funds from the federal Treasury and seats in the U.S. House of Representative.

Emily Zamora, executive director of Silver State Voices and a member of the committee, said that with latest Trump’s decision the tone of the committee’s messaging will change to focus around gaining trust from communities that may be wary of the process after the back-and-forth in Washington.

Marshall said the committee’s focus now would be strictly on increasing Nevadans’ participation, and she stressed that participation was “anonymous and safe.” Under federal law, individual responses to the census are confidential.

Zamora said the committee would have a more solid plan for outreach by August, and she outlined some of what committee members have discussing, including field programs similar to “get out the vote” strategies, community forums and digital outreach.

“Any barrier to a person completing the census is a concern, but we are committed to finding new and innovative ways to ensure a complete count regardless of discussions that are happening in Washington,” she said. “Nevadans need to know that not only is it vitally important to be counted, but it’s also completely anonymous and safe to do so. The CCC will put every effort into educating and engaging every Nevadan to be counted, and that’s our only focus.”