Kathy Briccetti: Making the Count Count

2 min

The vital and troubled census is in a critical stage, and Kathy Briccetti is working hard to make the count count.

As I visit homes of people who have not responded to the 2020 census, I climb hills and hundreds of steps and creep around to back doors when front doors are inaccessible. I have opened a few gates that people clearly did not want opened. People talk to me through cracked open doors, braced so toddlers won’t escape. At one house, a man bent over and held a German shepherd by the collar for the entire interview. And, of course, some do not open the door.

Enumerators visit impoverished, working, middle and upper class neighborhoods. They stop by farms, vacation cabins, apartment buildings and nursing homes. As I knock on doors, it occurs to me: if the purpose of our decennial counts is to provide funding and representation to all communities, then the people who stand to benefit the most from being counted may be those most fearful of answering my questions. They may be the most difficult to reach and the most underrepresented in the official count.

Communities need to educate their residents, locally and in their own languages. Billboards, ads and flyers are not proving to be enough. Residents need to hear from their leaders the importance of being counted. At the moment, there is a considerable discrepancy between Idaho with a 99 percent completion rate and Alabama at 83. This is where our nonpartisan census may be influenced by politics. And, at this particular moment, trust in our government may be one of the largest stumbling blocks across demographics.

However, now that census staff are sending more enumerators to locations that need help finishing up, we’ll get closer to our goal: counting every baby, child and adult in the United States of America so that we may be represented fairly and provided for more equally.

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With a Perspective, I’m Kathy Briccetti.

Kathy Briccetti is an author and photographer based in the East Bay.