Electing progressive leaders for a stronger community


Why the Census Matters

As Future901 supporters know, 2020 is a critical year to break the super majority in our State Legislature (aka General Assembly). Currently, Republicans hold 73 of the 99 (74%) House seats and 27 of the 33 (82%) Senate seats. Redistricting occurs after the decennial census, which means how many people live in Memphis and Shelby County will impact our representation between now and 2030. In short, this means if our residents are not counted in full, we will risk losing representation; particularly, when other parts of the state, such as Nashville and Chattanooga) will gain representation.

Parts of Shelby County are deemed at high risk of being undercounted. Risk factors for hard to count populations include large minority populations, increasing Hispanic populations and high levels of poverty. The map below shows large swaths of Shelby Co. were in the hard to count with mail return rates of 73% or less with some even less than 60%.

Memphis is often described as having a “C” of poverty – the Poplar corridor is surrounded on the north and south by populations that have a much lower standard of living. This is mimicked in the map below; the issues that face Memphians every day will also challenge us to be fully counted in the 2020 census.

Memphis Map.png


Additionally, the preferred method of submitting your census responses in 2020 will be electronically. This could be an issue for Memphis where the level of internet connectivity stands at 64% versus 70% for all of Shelby County and 78% for the United States. (https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US,tn,memphiscitytennessee,shelbycountytennessee/IN T100217) Fortunately, the census can be completed on smartphones or via telephone. Intensive follow-up will be required for those have not completed their filing electronically. Beyond the Political Impact Beyond the repercussions to the State Legislature for the next decade, census count impacts how state and federal dollars are distributed; this includes allocations for programs such as Head Start, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and school lunch programs. In Memphis, where poverty affects so many families, lower funding for critical assistance programs could be devastating. It is not only support programs that have funds allocated according to census counts. In fiscal 2016, Tennessee received over $17 billion through 55 federal spending program using data derived from the 2010 census (https://gwipp.gwu.edu/sites/g/files/zaxdzs2181/f/downloads/IPP1819-3%20CountingforDollars_TN.pdf). For every person undercounted in the 2010 census, it is estimated that Tennessee lost $1,091 (https://gwipp.gwu.edu/sites/g/files/zaxdzs2181/f/downloads/GWIPP%20Reamer%20Fiscal%20Impacts %20of%20Census%20Undercount%20on%20FMAP-based%20Programs%2003-19-18.pdf). While Future901 is focused on electing progressive Democrats, we can see that the impact of an undercounted Memphis will hurt us beyond the ballot box. It is imperative that we work with our local governing bodies, schools, churches and civic groups to ensure that all Shelby Countians participate in the 2020 census. Another Issue to Watch Historically, districts have been drawn based on total population. There is discussion going forward whether districts can be drawn based on U.S. citizens only or possibly only registered voters. These initiatives are intended to create more Republican leaning districts. We must remain vigilant about further threats to our democracy!

Written by Danielle Schonbaum

Robert Donati