Letter Calls on Governor and Lawmakers Not to Politicize the Census

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Read the MCF letter calling upon the Governor and leadership in the Minnesota House and Senate not to politicize census funding in Minnesota.  The letter is addressed to Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan, Senate Majority Leader Gazelka, Senate Minority Leader Bakk, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, and House Minority Leader Daudt.  It was also sent to the members of the State Government Finance Omnibus Bill (SF2227).  TAKE ACTION NOW TO GET STATE CENSUS FUNDING ON TRACK.

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The Minnesota Council on Foundations and the Minnesota Census Mobilization Partnership call upon you to make sure Minnesota is prepared for the 2020 Census by appropriating $2 million, as recommended by the Minnesota House.

We find the Senate leadership’s reluctance  toward  a one-time appropriation the census puzzling; particularly the notion that a request for state census funding would be subject to Minnesota’s informal agreement and practice of limiting action on election changes to only bipartisan initiatives.

The Census is not an elections practice.  Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution calls for a decennial count of every person living in the country. The information is fundamental to making our democracy work as the results are used to apportion representation. The information also drives how we allocate public resources, is the data engine for jobs and economic development, and helps people come together to make “small d” democracy decisions through government and as private citizens. The census is not part of the state’s elections management practices. The responsibility for leading the state’s census efforts is in the Department of Administration and the Minnesota Demographic Center. The Secretary of State or local election offices have no official role in the state’s census work.

The Census is not a partisan issue. In fact, it has bipartisan support in the Minnesota Legislature. Backing the bill in the House were Republicans and Democrats; urban and rural. Minnesota Council on Foundations is working with all ten offices of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation on federal appropriations and setting up state and district office census outreach. When the legislature made a down payment on 2020 census work in Minnesota in 2017 by appropriating funds for census staff in the state demographer’s office ($780,000 for FYs 2018 through 2021) it was not  tagged as an elections issue and part of the informal, bipartisan agreement.

The time to act is now. There is no do-over on the census. Minnesota needs to get it right and do so right now. Keeping eight Congressional districts and ten electoral votes is at stake. Making sure every federal dollar the state is entitled to comes back to serve Minnesotans is what’s on the line. And, having accurate data to grow our businesses and smartly allocate resources – both public and philanthropic, is essential.Other states are making special investments to boost efforts to get accurate counts. With an appropriation of $2M, Minnesota can do the same by enacting a plan that will (a) engage hard to reach dwellings, (b) prepare for the first digital census, (c) increase participation by historically undercounted communities, and (d) provide shared services for “We Count” activities in every Minnesota community. 

We ask for your bipartisan support for census funding. Census Day is April 1, 2020.  We have one year to get every Minnesota household to say We Count by completing their census forms on time . . . by April 1.  It’s important because Minnesota is better when everyone counts. 

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