Sign-On Letter for: Opposition to Addition of Citizenship Question On the 2020 Census

On March 26, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced its decision to include a citizenship question in the 2020 Census. Unfortunately, for the first time since the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the questionnaire sent to each household in the country is set to include an untested and unnecessary question about U.S. citizenship. The addition of this question is not science-based and will likely depress Census participation in North Carolina and across the country. All North Carolinians should be concerned, an inaccurate count puts at risk much needed federal dollars, political representation and ultimately the allocation of resources to communities to support a better quality of life for all North Carolinians. (Click Here to read news articles about the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census)

JOIN US AND TAKE ACTION! We can work together to make sure this Census is accurate, inclusive and complete. NC organizations and/or businesses can sign the letter below asking North Carolina’s Congressional Delegation to reject the inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 Census. NOTE: Due to heightened interest and the announcement of a hearing on the Census scheduled for May 8, 2018, the sign-on period has been extended to April 30th at 6:00 P.M.

Dear North Carolina Congressional Delegation:

We are writing to express our opposition to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census questionnaire. We urge you to contact Chair Trey Gowdy and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and ask them to reject the inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 Census questionnaire. We also ask you to express your own opposition to this last-minute decision that will significantly increase the cost of the 2020 Census and result in far less accurate data, and ultimately in a loss of federal funds to North Carolina communities.

North Carolina has too much at stake to risk an inaccurate Census. The Census directly affects the allocation of $16.3 billion annually in federal resources to our state. Additionally, it provides key decision-makers with the information they need to ensure that government resources are directed strategically to our communities. Also, the Census ensures that communities are appropriately represented in the statehouse and in Congress. An accurate, inclusive and complete 2020 Census count will improve the quality of life for your constituents.

North Carolina is home to about 767,656 foreign born individuals; our state has the 14th largest foreign-born population in the United States. More than 300,000 have already become naturalized citizens, and many more are, or will be, eligible to apply for citizenship. The addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census will significantly deter participation, resulting in far less accurate data for North Carolina. Census Bureau representatives have already reported widespread and unprecedented fear among respondents to other surveys; households are reluctant to participate fully and provide accurate information. The question will raise concerns in all households – native and foreign-born—about the confidentiality of the information provided to the government and how government authorities may use that information

The Commerce Department’s decision is untimely. The Census Bureau conducts careful and costly testing over many years to develop the Census questions. Last year, the Bureau submitted to Congress, as required by law, the topics for the 2020 Census; citizenship was not submitted at that time. The final wording for the questions – derived from those topics—was due to Congress by March 31, 2018. Adding an untested question at this late stage would contravene long-established procedures that ensure that decennial Censuses are carefully and scientifically planned.

Moreover, the addition of the citizenship question is costly. If individuals do not initially respond to the Census questionnaire, the Bureau will follow-up by sending enumerators to their homes, and costs will increase exponentially. The Census Bureau expects that every one percent decrease in the self-response rate that it has budgeted will increase the cost of the Census by $55 million – a $10 million increase from its original projected cost of $45 million.

In announcing the decision to add the citizenship question, Secretary Ross cited the need for better voting rights enforcement data, but decennial Census data are not needed to enforce these protections. The Census has not included a question on citizenship on the form sent to all households since 1950, before enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 (VRA). Data from the ongoing American Community Survey, and the Census “long” form before that, are sufficiently robust for civil rights and VRA enforcement.

A broad group of scientific organizations, business leaders and prominent policymakers oppose the addition of the citizenship question to Census 2020. Members of the business community are particularly concerned about undermining the validity of Census data, and ultimately harming economic growth and development opportunities.

The addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census threatens the fundamental Constitutional mandate that the Census obtain a complete count of all the nation’s residents. We urge you to demonstrate your commitment to a complete, inclusive and accurate decennial enumeration by urging the leadership of House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to reject the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, and by expressing your own opposition as well.

This sign-on letter is coordinated by N.C. Counts. N.C. Counts partners with government organizations, planning organizations, community organizations, service providers and businesses to improve the quality of life for North Carolinians with a complete, inclusive and accurate 2020 Census count. We believe that accurate Census data is essential to the economic well-being of North Carolina and the general well-being of every single North Carolinian. To find out more, go to:


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