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Committee aims to improve census count

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Posted on: May 13, 2019

By MAYA KOEPPEN — In an effort to improve the city’s count in the upcoming 2020 census, on March 18, the mayor and the city council proposed and voted unanimously in favor of the creation of a Complete Count Committee (CCC).

According to Mayor Candace Hollingsworth and city council documents, the goal of a CCC is to work alongside community members to both encourage and promote responses to the 2020 census. The committee should be formed within a month or so and will consist of up to 15 members selected by the mayor and council. For fiscal year 2020, the city budget allocates $10,000 towards the CCC.

“[The Complete Count Committee] is to help reach out into communities that typically don’t get high numbers during the census to ensure that everyone gets equal representation,” said councilmember Joseph Solomon (Ward 5). However, Solomon also expressed a concern about backing a federal program with a significant chunk of city funding.

The City of Hyattsville is at high risk for an undercount according to the Census 2020 Hard to Count mapping site, which highlights areas where self-response was low in the last census. For example, according to the mapping website, only 67.3 percent of households west of Queens Chapel Road mailed back their 2010 census questionnaire, requiring in-person follow-ups for the remaining 32.7 percent.

“We need your help. You know your community; you know your population,” Daniel Jones, U.S. Census Bureau partnership specialist, told councilmembers at an April 1 city council meeting.

Another potential concern for the city, according to Solomon, is the inclusion of a citizenship question on the upcoming census form. In an April 5 ruling by U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel, Maryland became the third state to block adding the question, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” to the 2020 census. On April 23, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the question. Although justices were to rule on the inclusion of the question by June, according to NPR, a 4th Circuit appeal by plaintiffs in one of the Maryland lawsuits could push back that timeline.

Regardless of what happens with the citizenship question, the council wants to move forward with creating the CCC. Councilmember Carriana Suiter (Ward 3) said, “The courts will still be deciding the citizenship question, but I think, in the meantime, it is really important that we make an effort to ensure that folks are counted and that the subsequent redistricting that will happen after the census will reflect our community.”

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