Students, Berkeley community members and local government officials gathered in the ASUC Senate chambers on Feb. 13 for a town hall on the 2020 census.
Alameda County Board of Supervisors member Keith Carson led the discussion, addressing changes in census logistics as well as concerns ranging from undercounting certain populations to distrusting the government with personal information. Carson reached out to the ASUC to coordinate the event to ensure that the student population receives accurate representation and participates in the effort to spread information regarding the census.
“We thought that it was important to have a politician’s perspective on a lot of these issues because, just like for students, these issues are very much like real-life issues,” said Naomi Garcia, ASUC External Affairs Vice President Census Committee director.
The census, conducted once every 10 years, impacts government funding, district boundaries and seats in the House of Representatives, among other things.
For the first time, the census will be offered online, and Carson said he was concerned about California losing representation in the House because of an undercount.
Soli Alpert, a legislative aide to Berkeley City Councilmember Rigel Robinson — whose office co-hosted the event with Carson’s office — addressed potential concern over the binary options for the gender question, acknowledging that not everyone taking the census will align with the male or female options.
“People should fill out the census. If there is a question they generally feel like they can’t fill out, it’s better to fill out most of the census than none of the census,” Alpert said. “I encourage people to fill out every single question that they feel comfortable filling out.”
There will be more community events regarding the census in the future, including a similar event at the Ed Roberts Center on Feb. 20.
Carson said the individual conversations that people may have after these meetings can spread awareness of the census’s importance.
“It wasn’t just coming to find out about the census, they really cared about the issues that the census impacts, and that came across in the conversations and the questions,” Carson said. “I feel as though this was a success because people left not only better informed, but seemed like better energized to get out and make sure that everybody participates.”