The NCSL Blog


By Christi Zamarripa

Nashville—The “All About the Census” session at Legislative Summit produced a string of timely questions. Here’s a sampling:

James Whitehorne Chief - Census Redistricting & Voting Rights Data Office Washington, DCWhat happens when a person answering the census selects multiple races or ethnicities? Will that result in an overcount?

A person may select multiple racial and ethnic identifiers depending on what’s right for them. This will not get tabulated as an overcount.

How will military service members serving overseas be counted in the 2020 census?

The Census Bureau will provide data based on military records supplied by the Department of Defense. Those service members who are temporarily deployed will be counted as residents of the stateside bases or ports from which they are typically assigned. The military members who are stationed overseas on Census Day will be counted in their home state of record and be used for apportionment purposes only, as done in previous censuses.

What is the procedure for identifying new addresses based on new construction?

The U.S. Census Bureau is working with states to provide Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) feedback lists for their review. Also, the bureau has a new construction program, where states can identify new construction up until April 1, 2020. The bureau continues to receive updates from the U.S. Postal Service. In addition, almost 30% of the country, those areas identified as having change or hard-to-locate units, will have an in-field address canvassing operation this fall.

How will prisoners be counted in 2020 and will it be cross-referenced with prisoner release data in home districts?

Prisoners will be counted in the prisons where they are located on Census Day because that is considered their “usual residence” based on where they eat, sleep and spend the majority of their time. The Census Bureau typically gathers this information from the prisons using administrative records. 

Will my state allow recipients of government financial support to take a job with the Census and will it affect their financial support status?

Ask the governor in your state if there is a waiver for people who receive benefits from Medicaid, CHIP, SNAP and TANF. The Census Bureau is already recruiting to fill hundreds of thousands of temporary positions in every corner of the nation. The goal is to hire people where they live because they are familiar with the areas and are able to speak the languages in those communities. To meet this goal, the Census Bureau hopes states will provide waivers for these temporary workers.

How will the homeless get counted?

The census will count people wherever they live or are staying on April 1, 2020. Since the homelessness live in a variety of situations, the Census Bureau will make efforts to count homeless populations at service locations, pre-identified outdoor locations and transitory locations. In Colorado, the state has created a program called CLiC that will use libraries to help the homeless and other people fill out the census.

Citizen voting age population (CVAP) data: Can it be used for redistricting?

Right now, there are too many moving parts to determine if CVAP data will be made available. There is no federal constitutional standard on what data shall be used for redistricting, so if it is available—which is very much still an if—redistricters, mostly legislators, will decide whether to use CVAP or total population.

Christi Zamarripa is a policy associate with NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting Program.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.