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Some challenges, including blocked citizenship question, face local organizers promoting 2020 census

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
The New York Counts 2020 Coalition and the City of Syracuse held a conference this week with local community organizers.

The New York Counts 2020 Coalition, which is made up of a large number of community based organizations across the state, is preparing central New Yorkers with the plans they need to ensure an accurate count of the population is made for the 2020 census. Several challenges face organizers this year, including a citizenship question, which was blocked by federal judges last year. 

Meeta Anand, a census 2020 senior fellow at the New York Immigration Coalition, said the potential of a citizenship question on the census caused a lot of fear in communities.

“What it has done though, is galvanize this group of community groups to go out and make sure people don’t let that fear stop them from being recognized and counted and having their voices heard,” Anand said.

The census is done every 10 years to determine political representation in the House of Representatives and the appropriation of federal funding. This is the first time the census can be completed online, which Anand said has its benefits.

“For some people, like Millennials, that’s fantastic," Anand said. "They’ll just go online and fill it out right away. Other communities might not have internet access. They might be scared of using the internet. They might not understand how that works. For those people there’s a bit of apprehension there.”

Anand said the census can be completed over the phone, and everyone will still receive a paper form. She said there should also be a focus on reaching out to historically underrepresented communities.

“Blacks, Latinx, non-native born, renters, non-native English speakers, Native Americans, all of those communities do not typically fill out the census at the same rates as the rest of the nation,” Anand said. “It’s important that they know that the resources flow to their neighborhoods.”

Invitations to compete the census will go out in March.  

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.