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Bobby Powell, Vic Torres push for committee to encourage participation in 2020 Census

“Florida stands at the crossroads.”

Democratic Sens. Bobby Powell, Jr. and Vic Torres are calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to set up a committee aimed at encouraging Floridians to participate in the 2020 Census.

The data acquired during the Census, which is conducted every 10 years, is used for a number of government initiatives such as allocating seats in the U.S. House and helping local governments understand where resources are needed.

“It cannot be understated how critical a complete and accurate count is for our state,” Powell said.

“In 2016, Florida received over 44 billion dollars through federal spending programs that were guided by data derived from the 2010 census. That means for every one thousand persons counted, the state will be eligible for 15 to 20 million dollars in available resources.

“It’s time for us to get serious about the census and I hope that the Governor will join this effort by establishing the Complete Count Committee.”

Powell introduced legislation during the 2019 Session that would set up such a committee, but the measure died without much movement.

The bill (SB 912) would have established the committee “adjunct to the Department of State for the express purpose of developing, recommending, and assisting in the administration of a census outreach strategy to encourage the full participation of this state’s residents.”

The accuracy of the decennial Census data is dependent upon participation by the population at large, some of whom balk at giving the government even basic data such as their race or how many people are living at a given residence.

That latter question could especially be at issue in the 2020 Census. The Donald Trump administration is currently undergoing a court battle to add a question to the 2020 census regarding individuals’ citizenship.

The Department of Justice says that the question is needed to ensure minority communities have proper representation. But opponents of the question argue it could severely impact the response rate, as non-citizens may fear answering the survey at all out of worry the government will target them for deportation.

FiveThirtyEight published a recap Monday of several studies assessing the potential impact of adding a citizenship question. All studies showed Florida would be among the states with the highest share of uncounted residents.

So far, courts have blocked the administration from adding the question. The Supreme Court is currently reviewing those decisions. But regardless of where the courts land, undercounting remains a concern for Powell, who argues the survey is too important to mess up.

“Florida stands at the crossroads,” said Powell.

“We can continue to bury our heads in the sand, risking an undercount of our residents and the billions of dollars that could be at stake, or we can take proactive steps to ensure that everyone is counted. I trust that we will make the right decision.”

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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