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2020 Census is first high-tech count, what’s at stake?

When the next United States Census arrives in April 2020, it will be the nation’s first high-tech count, with residents encouraged to primarily respond to the census survey online.

We now live in a world in which more local governments are using data to guide their decisions. There’s a lot at stake for Seattle in the 2020 U.S. Census, and the data gathered from the count could affect U.S. cities for the next decade.

While going digital could make the census more inclusive and efficient, there are potential downsides, including hard-to-count populations which are not comfortable using computers or lack access to high-speed internet. Many people have cybersecurity concerns and are cautious about sharing their data. And the threat of disinformation campaigns looms.

Seattle is responding by working with community partners to ensure historically undercounted residents receive accurate census information and know their rights.  

In April, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan, Seattle Foundation President and CEO Tony Mestres and King County Executive Dow Constantine announced the creation of a Regional Census Fund to provide $1 million in funding to help community groups prepare for the 2020 Census.

The federal government uses U.S. Census data to help decide where money should go. The more accurate the census count is in our community, the more likely our community will receive the resources that we need for important federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid, Head Start, and SNAP. The census also determines how communities are represented in state and federal legislatures. We need an accurate count in order to have more equitable representation.

At the City, we know that many communities, especially immigrant and refugee residents, do not trust our chaotic federal government and are worried that information they include on their census form will not be protected. Importantly, federal law prohibits the Census Bureau from publishing or sharing identifying information, and as of July 2019 there will not be a citizenship question on the 2020 Census form.  

Visit, the City of Seattle’s comprehensive resource for regular updates on the 2020 Census, including information on privacy and data protection, census trainings, and opportunities for grant funding. 

At the City, we will continue to work with our communities to ensure everyone knows their rights and can be counted in the 2020 Census.