Cuomo taps Martin Luther King III, Lucy Liu, and Lin-Manuel Miranda to lead 2020 census campaign

January 21, 2020

Image by Maciek Lulko via Flickr

As part of the city’s ongoing efforts to count every New Yorker in the upcoming 2020 census, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday the creation of the Census Council, which will coordinate the state’s campaign to “get out the count.” Martin Luther King III, Lucy Liu, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have been tapped to serve as co-chairs for the council. They will “act as the state’s coordinating arm” to oversee outreach efforts and make sure the count is as complete as possible. Cuomo also proposed adding an additional $10 million to the state’s effort, bringing the total up to $70 million.

In 2010, the census response rate of New York City residents was 61.9 percent, compared to the national average of 76 percent, CityLab reports. Undercounted groups are most often minorities, immigrants, renters, the homeless, low-income individuals, and children under five, according to findings by the Census Bureau.

“Being counted in the Census may well be second only to voting when it comes to citizen action in the Democrat process,” Martin Luther King III said in a statement. “Unfortunately, people of color are the ones most often undercounted, which leads to negative consequences for their communities. I am proud to work with Governor Cuomo to ensure every New Yorker, even those that are hardest to reach, is counted in the 2020 Census.”

Since the NYC Census 2020 initiative was greenlit last January, the city has added over 225,000 addresses to the Bureau’s Master Address File and is partnered with CUNY, the city’s library system, 157 community-based organizations, labor unions, and more to increase awareness about the once-in-a-decade survey.

At a time when only 45 percent of residents know the census is tied to public funding decisions, the 2020 headcount has been further clouded over by the Trump administration’s proposed citizenship question.

“The attempt to add that question was driven entirely by a desire to create mass panic and confusion so that places with large immigrant populations—which, by the way, also happen to vote in large numbers for Democratic parties—wouldn’t participate,” deputy director of the NYC Census 2020 team Amit S. Bagga told CityLab. Even though the question ultimately wasn’t added to the questionnaire, some damage may have already been done.

For this reason and more, New York is putting forth an unprecedented effort to “get out the count.” Whereas no public investments were made into organizing for the 2010 census, the state may ultimately kick in as much as $7o million to support 2020 efforts. A significant portion of that, about $23 million, will go towards community-based organizing and outreach in historically undercounted communities. The campaign’s aggressive media strategy will advertise in a minimum of 16 languages.

“In Washington, the Trump administration thought it had a plan to weaponize the census—and now we have a plan to fight back and get every single New Yorker counted,” Julie Menin, director of NYC Census 2020, said in a statement.

“Our Complete Count Campaign Plan is built on the idea that it is only through successful and strategic partnerships with local communities, major civic institutions, government, the private sector, media, and others, that we will be able to teach every New Yorker about the critical importance of the census in determining access to our rightful share of resources and representation – and we’re proud to be leading the largest and most comprehensive Get Out the Count effort being mounted by any city in the nation.”

The Census will open to respondents on March 12, 2020 and for the first time in its history, will be able to be completed online.


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