Arizona leaders also bear blame for 2020 Census undercount

Photo via One Arizona/Facebook

With only 13 days left to complete the 2020 Census, more than 10% of Arizonans still haven’t been counted, one of the worst rates in the country. The consequences of this undercount will be felt for a decade in the form of reduced federal funding, not to mention more limited representation in Congress.

By all accounts, this year’s census process has been a mess. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Trump administration was actively sabotaging the process, including attempting to add a citizenship question in what appeared to be an intentional effort to intimidate immigrant communities.  

But Donald Trump is not the only one to blame for the 2020 Census undercount. The One Arizona coalition has spent more than a year reaching out to our communities—Latino, Black, Indigenous, undocumented, Muslim, Asian-American, rural, working-class, queer, trans, and homeless Arizonans—about the 2020 Census. And we’ve seen that a lack of trust in state and local governments is just as much of a barrier to a full count as the failures of the Trump administration.  

In this moment of crisis, these communities have been essentially abandoned by our state and local governments. Rates of COVID-19 infection and death are disproportionately high. Meanwhile, because the social safety net has been intentionally eroded for decades, our people must risk their lives and return to work. The rates of police violence are also highest among these same communities—Indigenous communities and Black communities experience the highest numbers of murders by police in Arizona.  

Our state and local governments do not prioritize our wellness and often lack the courage to fight for us. But it is these same elected officials who depend on our communities to fill out the Census so that state and local governments get their fair share of federal funding. Our elected officials ask for our participation, but when we need them most, they are silent. 

This pattern must end. 

Here at One Arizona, we have registered hundreds of thousands of voters and reshaped the entire political system of Arizona. We have spent thousands of staff hours talking to people about the census at community events, meetings, and gathering places. We’ve given presentations, answered questions, and sent hundreds of thousands of text messages. We’ve done this work because we want our families, neighborhoods, and communities to get the funding and resources that are rightfully ours and we want the political power that representation brings.

But now our communities are coming to us asking, where is the support from our leaders? Where are the resources we need? Why won’t our leaders act to end the violence of the police departments they oversee? 

Sadly, we know the answers to these questions. Until our elected officials prioritize us, until they actually care about us, until we are more than just numbers to be counted, we won’t see support from them. Frankly, it’s exhausting to keep encouraging people to show up and be counted when our government remains so unresponsive to their needs.

Our state and local governments can’t neglect communities for years and then expect to get a full count. Being responsive starts with transparency: state and local governments should release a yearly public report that details what federal funding they received, how and where those funds were spent (including a breakdown by ZIP code of where services were provided), and who did and did not qualify for services and why. They should expand programs to meet the full needs of our communities, including finding funding to support the undocumented and formerly incarcerated community members who are so often left out. And they should put an end to police violence. 

It’s time for our state and local governments to stop taking us for granted.