Let’s be clear: Donald Trump doesn’t want fair voting in this country.
He admitted as much a few weeks ago when he was discussing the possibility of mail-in elections.
“They had levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” Trump told the cast of the show “Fox & Friends.”
In other words, the president of the United States wants to reduce and restrict access to voting because his party wouldn’t stay in power if everyone’s voice was heard. It’s unforgivable and we have to fight against it, and one way to do that is to fill out the Census.
The Census determines who is seen and counted by our government. We have one chance every ten years to make sure people of color and immigrants count. The current administration doesn’t want us to fill it out, which is why it is even more important that we all take a few minutes to answer nine questions and in doing so we can drastically shift the makeup of our democracy for the next decade.
How, exactly? Let’s remember recent events. Republican-led states such as Georgia and Florida have blocked hundreds of thousands of people from voter rolls. Other states like North Carolina simply closed polling places in areas with high minority populations.
The United States is the only democracy in the world where voting rights are permanently revoked for returning citizens.
Donald Trump and the Republicans who follow him don’t want you to vote because they don’t want you to count. The way to fight this to make sure the government acknowledges we exist, and that’s exactly what the Census does.
One may wonder, “what does the Census have to do with politics, and why would I want the government to know about me and my family?” It’s fairly simple: the Census forms the basis for how we draw representative districts. Get enough people participating, and it could end unfair gerrymandering that cram people of color in a few districts while ensuring Republicans win everywhere else.
The Census also determines how many seats a state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives, thus determining how many Electoral College votes a state receives.
In other words, it’s a simple equation: More Census responses means more political strength — and you don’t have to be an American citizen to answer the Census. If you live here, you count. Period.
I know that some people are skeptical of the Census. They don’t trust the government or are concerned it will be used to track people’s immigration status. That’s exactly what Donald Trump wants you to think. The Supreme Court had to block his attempts to put a citizenship questions on the Census. It is safe for anyone to fill out and the information cannot be shared with any other government agencies or law enforcement.
The Census is a way for us to improve our lives. Every single Census response means more money for our community, our city, and our state. That means higher-quality health care, better schools, and stronger infrastructure.
When we don’t fill out the Census, we’re only hurting ourselves: In the 1990 census, Hispanic Americans were undercounted by about 5%. Twenty years later, the Census failed to count 1.5 million Latinx and Black people. Inequitable funding and lack of political representation can be drawn back to this Census undercount.
This is on us, we must do better. In 2000, 58% of Chicago households returned their census form by mail. The national rate was 72%.
But we can fix that.
Help change the unfair rules that keep our community down. In just a few minutes, you can help level the playing field. You can make it easier for everyone to vote and get more funding for our communities. It just takes a few minutes to make a big impact.
Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, 25th Ward, is a former teacher and community organizer. Stevie Valles is executive director of Chicago Votes.
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