Building Philanthropy for a Better Florida

Red States Push for Last-Minute Census Advantage

January 28, 2020

County Commissioner Emily Bonilla (seen above) of Orange County, Florida, shows a map of her district. The Democrat fears an undercount in this year’s census. Florida is among the red states now pushing to boost participation.

As the political stakes become clearer, more states are trying to motivate residents to participate in the 2020 census this spring.

Some red states had held back: Texas and Florida spent nothing on outreach, as conservatives find it distasteful to compete for population-based federal dollars when their mission is to cut back on big government. Furthermore, some conservatives in Texas and Alabama have backed the idea of counting only citizens in drawing state legislative districts, making a full count of fearful immigrants less crucial.

Florida needs state dollars to compete with Alabama and California’s efforts, but the governor did not provide any, said Susan Racher, a founding member of Florida Counts, a Miami-based coalition of nonprofits hoping to raise $2 million for local efforts. Floridians had low response rates in the 2010 census, raising concerns about undercounts this time around.

“It’s too late. The bull’s out of the barn,” Racher said. “Local groups have been working on fumes and they need gas money and overtime pay for somebody to man a table at a ball game, to put a census person in the carpool lane at the local Head Start. People need those trusted voices in the community but those people don’t have extra money to do this.”

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