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Nebraska Groups Organize for Accurate 2020 Census Count

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019   

LINCOLN, Neb. — Civic groups across Nebraska are gearing up to organize their own outreach efforts for the upcoming 2020 census, after Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed legislation last week that would have created a Nebraska Complete Count Committee charged with encouraging participation.

John Cartier, director of voting rights with the group Civic Nebraska, said getting an accurate count is important because census numbers determine how many Congressional seats Nebraska gets, and how many federal tax dollars come back to the state.

"So we're talking about billions of dollars given to Nebraska to fund things such as roads, education, child welfare in more rural areas that is tied directly to this once-every-decade event which is a really huge undertaking, but a very important one,” Cartier said.

Groups most vulnerable to being under-counted include children in rural communities, seniors and minorities.

Documents recently revealed that a citizenship question was added to the 2020 census to help Republicans and undercut Democratic representation in state legislatures and Congress.

The Trump administration has argued that asking people if they are U.S. citizens is necessary to protect voting rights. A final ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court is expected in the coming weeks.

Cartier noted nonprofit groups trusted by immigrant communities are highly skeptical about the citizenship question, and many are reluctant to mobilize participation in the count because they can't guarantee the administration wouldn't use that information to advance its anti-immigration agenda.

"There's really a huge problem with mistrust,” he said. “So they're going to have less of an incentive to make sure that in their communities, everybody participates in the census, because really, they don't want ICE or someone else knocking on their doors and harassing them."

Cartier pointed to a study by George Washington University showing that Nebraska stands to lose $21,000 for every person missed in the 2020 count.

In 2016, the state received nearly $4 billion in federal funds for programs linked to census numbers.


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