Tuesday, December 29, 2009

For auld lang syne

New Years Eve is a mere 48 hours away.

With it comes January 1st, 2010, upon which many new laws across our great nation will take effect. Here's a look at a few of the new laws, passed by your elected legislators, that will become effective this New Years Day.

1. New Hampshire will prohibit the trafficking of people for the purposes of sexual or labor exploitation, providing for forfeiture, restitution and compensation.

2. In Montana, insurance companies will be required to provide coverage for autism spectrum disorders.

3. In Texas, teenagers who might want a tan for prom now will have to be accompanied to the tanning facility by an adult.

4. Same-sex couples will be able to marry in New Hampshire.

5. Any lighter that appeals to children will no longer be allowed to be sold in Louisiana. This includes lighters that have a toy-like appearance or entertaining audio or is commonly recognized as appealing, attractive, or intended for use by young children.

6. Illinois joins at least 18 other states in prohibiting drivers from sending text messages while driving.

7. In Texas, college students will need to show proof they've been vaccinated against bacterial meningitis before they can live on campus.

8. In Kentucky, people will be limited on how much money they can borrow through payday loans.

9. Smoke detectors in Texas now will need to be capable of alerting a hearing-impaired person if requested by a tenant.

10. Oregon’s new seat belt law requires children under the age of 16 to wear a seat belt on an all-terrain vehicle or a motor vehicle while on public property.

To read about more new state laws taking effect January 1st, 2010, click here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Nonprofit Tagline Report

Vamping up your nonprofits' 2010 Census campaign, voter outreach campaign, or simply reevaluating your communications strategies?

Check out Nancy Schwartz's Nonprofit Tagline Report on building the brand name of your nonprofit initiative. Sections include:

  • The 10 Have-Tos for Successful Taglines.
  • 7 Examples of what not to do.
  • What Makes a Winning Tagline.
  • Over 2,500 Nonprofit Tagline Examples.

Check out her top 3 "Dont's" for nonprofit taglines!

1. Don’t be generic. Be specific and as emotive as possible to highlight a connection
between an individual and your organization.

2. Don’t craft a tagline your organization can’t stand behind 100%. Your
nonprofit has to be able to deliver what you promise. When you do so, your
organization reaffirms its credibility. When you don’t, you lose any you may have.

3. Don’t veer off focus.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Counting prisoners in the wrong place?

African-American leaders weigh in on the impact of counting prisoners, ineligible to vote in 48 states, in prisons versus their home communities. Why count people in far away communities where they cannot vote nor derive any benefit from local services?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Children and the Census

Photo c/o US Census Bureau PIO

Children are the most often missed age group in the Census, according to Why are Young Children So Often Missed in the Census, a new report by Dr. William P. O’Hare of the The Annie E.Casey Foundation. In the 2000 Census, the net undercount of children under 10 years old was 1 million; children under 5 account for over three quarters of this. The report notes a more pronounced discrepancy in rates of undercounted minority children. In 2000, black males under age 5 were missed at a rate of 5.3 percent, compared to 3.3 percent for non-black males in this age group. Among females, blacks under age 5 were missed at a rate of 5.4 percent, compared to 3.8 percent for non-blacks in this age group.

There are several factors that explain the high undercount of young children: Young children are more likely to live in households with 7+ occupants, which make it difficult to complete the census form with spaces for only six names; children are also more likely to live in places characterized as hard to count, including rental units, mobile homes, and complex households with adults other than parents. Looking ahead to the 2010 census, prospects for an accurate count of children do not look promising, as there has been an increase in the proportion of young children from minority populations from previous years, there are more children living with undocumented residents than in previous years, and an estimated two million children will be affected by the housing crisis which will add to the complexity of getting an accurate count.

The report offers several suggestions for combating the undercount of children, including reaching out to different nonprofit agencies and doctors whose clients are families with young children to raise awareness of the census.

Click here to read the full report.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

MOVE Act and 2010 primary dates

(Image - Senatus)
The new Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, which stipulates a 45-day deadline for states to send general election ballots to military and overseas voters, has many states scrambling to either push back their 2010 primary date or receive a compliance waiver in order to avoid violating the Act.

States are citing many factors, such as the purchase of new equipment, new election administration processes and voting systems, as preventing them complying with the MOVE Act. The Act was passed after the 2008 elections, when it was found that up to 1 in 4 military and overseas voters were disenfranchised because they didn't receive their ballots in time.

Read more from the Pew Center.

Monday, December 14, 2009

2010 Census On Track

In a news briefing earlier this morning, Census Director Robert Groves reported that preparations for the 2010 Census are nearly complete, and it’s on track to being a successful count. According to Groves, the bureau has recently completed compiling its master address list used to mail out the census forms. In spite of the challenges facing the census count including undocumented residents wary of census takers and the high number of foreclosures, Groves is hopeful that the 2010 Census will have a strong turnout, owing in part to the short form and the outreach efforts emphasizing the confidentiality of the process. ''The plan has been set. Operations have been assembled,'' Groves said. ''It is a time for all of us, especially social, political and religious leaders around the country to get the word out that everyone needs to participate -- that it is easy to do, and it's especially safe.''

Read more about the press briefing here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Fair Elections Now Act

Legislation that would reform public financing of congressional elections was recently introduced in the House and Senate. The legislation, sponsored by Senator Durbin (D- Ill) and Representative Larson (D- Conn) and has 5 senate co-sponsors and 119 house co-sponsors, includes a voluntary public financing system that would be driven by small-donors. "We believe the answer is grassroots involvement," Larson said. "President Barack Obama demonstrated that it could be done."

The legislation is in part a response to a case before the Supreme Court which would allow unlimited corporate expenditures during elections. "It takes a major scandal to create a major reform," Durbin said. "I don't know that we've reached the level in the Senate or in the nation where people are going to demand this of us.... But if they think that the Supreme Court has tipped the scales so dramatically that they don't have a fighting chance any more, they may be open to this."

Under this legislation, funds would be allocated equally to House candidates and based on population of the states in Senate elections. According to Sen. Durbin, the legislation would allow candidates to focus on the issues instead of spending "every waking moment begging for money."

To read more about this, click here or here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Civic engagement of non-college-bound youth

The 2008 election showed marked increases in the under-30 age group - the only age group to show such increases - continuing an upward trend that began in 1996.

However, to what extent is this a movement that can be characterized across American youth as a whole? PACE has released a white paper that explores the divide between low and high income youth civic engagement, citing an imbalanced distribution of educational, political, and/or civic resources and opportunities that encourage voting.

Key data points include:

  • Nearly 60 percent of 18-24 year-old college students voted in the 2004 presidential election, while only one-third of non-college attending youth (ages 18-24) voted.
  • During the 2008 primaries, college students were nearly four times more likely to have voted than students not attending college (25 percent vs. 7 percent).
  • During the 2008 presidential election, 70 percent of all young voters in the 2008 election had gone to college, although just 57 percent of U.S. citizens under 30 have ever attended college.
To download the paper, click here.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bias Older, Higher Income Voters - It's In the Mail

Vote by Mail is growing. It's convenient for some. It costs less. But is it good for democracy? Or is it newest form voter disenfranchisement plan - overrepresenting the votes of older wealthier voters and underrepresenting younger and lower income voters. The same bias found in registration laws, felon disenfranchisement, vote suppression strategies and the like.

A new survey looks at the demographics of those using making the greatest use of vote by mail in California elections. The Field Poll found those permanently registered to receive mail ballots and most likely to participate in mail elections where much older and whiter vs younger and hispanic. This skew can also be found in states like Oregon with who distribute mail ballots automatically to all registered voters, but more so in a state like California where automatically getting mail ballots is optional.

What if the US Census were only conducted by mail? The population profile would look like it did 20 years ago, perhaps even older and wealthier. Fortunately the Census goes to great lengths to include everyone setting up questionnaire assistance and be counted centers across hard to count areas and conducting an extensive canvass of non-respondents.

Early voting facilitates participation and can save costs. But like the Census, democracy means elections that provide a range of opportunities for people of all backgrounds to vote - by mail, early in person and at a poll location or drop box on Election Day. The trend towards all mail balloting - without options - could set voting rights advances back a few decades or more.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

From Project Vote: Representational Bias in the 2008 Election

Doug Hess and Jody Herman of Project Vote have just released this report detailing the increase in diversity in the 2008 electorate.

The report finds that although older, wealthier White voters continue to make up a disproportionately larger amount of the electorate, a rapid increase in the diversification of the adult citizen population since the 2004 election contributed to increased voting among minority groups in 2008.

Among the report's conclusions are:
  • Voting among non-Whites in 2008 made up approximately 91 percent of the increase in the total number of voters since 2004. This increase was driven by an increase in minority voters under the age of 30. In fact, because of this increase in participation by young minority voters, 2008 was the only election in recent memory where the voting rate by youth increased while the rate for those 30 and over did not.
  • Registration rates increased remarkably among young Black men (8 percentage points), young Latinos of both genders (6 percentage points), and Asians (5 percentage points for young men and 13 points for young women).
  • Among younger populations, Black women voted at the highest rate (64 percent), followed by White women (56 percent) and Black men (52 percent). All minority groups under 30 saw increases in their turnout rates compared to 2004.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Regional Census Offices search for Questionnaire Assistance Centers

Boston-region organizations - Do you serve populations that speak a language other than English? Are you willing to donate space for at least 15 hours a week that can be used by census employees to provide language assistance for people completing 2010 Census forms?

If so, your Census Office wants to hear from you. The Census Bureau is currently identifying facilities that can be used as Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QAC). The Bureau needs 2,460 sites in the Boston Region alone. Questionnaire Assistance Centers simply require a small private place in a public facility where the Census Bureau can staff a table with translators to provide in-language assistance to help non-English speakers complete the 2010 questionnaire. Questionnaire Assistance Center will be open between mid-March and mid-April 2010.

If you are a Boston-region organization and would like to serve as a QAC, please contact your partnership specialist or the Boston Regional Census Office at (617) 424-4501 or by email at boston.regional.office(at)census.gov by December 21.

Don't live in or around Boston? Census Regional Offices across the country are looking for facilities to serve as Questionnaire Assistance Centers. To contact your Regional Census Office about becoming a Questionnaire Assistance Center, click on your state.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Census jobs opening across country

Got this press release from Kara Mapel at the Kansas City Regional Census Office. Seems they have officially started hiring for the spring 2010 count and have thousands of positions to fill in 30 local census offices in Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Similar staffing needs are occuring at Regional and Local Census Offices around the country - keep your ears open. Those interested in applying for these jobs can call the Toll Free Jobs Line at 1‐866‐861‐2010 for more information.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The New Constituents

A new report released on November 17th by America's Voice examines how Latino population growth will shape Congressional apportionment after the 2010 Census. They predict that eight states will gain seats in the House of Representatives and eleven states will lose seats (Texas (+4), Arizona (+2), Florida (+1), Georgia (+1), Nevada (+1), Oregon (+1), South Carolina (+1), Utah (+1), Ohio (-2), Illinois (-1), Iowa (-1), Louisiana (-1), Massachusetts (-1), Michigan (-1), Minnesota (-1), Missouri (-1), New Jersey (-1), New York (-1), and Pennsylvania (-1)).

Their findings have some interesting implications:
  • Latinos are not just settling in major cities, but in diverse regions of the country. After the 2010 Census, new Members of Congress in states like Georgia and South Carolina as well as Arizona and Texas will owe their positions, in part, to the expanding Latino population.
  • States that are losing Congressional representation would have fared worse had Latinos not moved there in record numbers.
  • While their states’ Congressional delegations are shrinking overall, Latino voters are gaining power as they expand their share of the electorate. Not only is the overall Latino population growing, but the number of Latino voters is also increasing dramatically.
  • As this demographic continues to grow, politicians who ignore or demonize the Latino population in their states will find the road to re-election much more difficult.
To read the full report, click here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Update on Census Equity Fund in Boston, MA

In Massachusetts, local funding group Access Strategies Fund and other local foundations have come together to create the Massachusetts Census Equity Fund launched to provide up to $400,000 to Massachusetts nonprofits for work on the 2010 Census. They will be granting funds to area nonprofits. Applications are due 11/25/09. For more information on how to apply, visit their website.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

(Boston Globe) - MassVOTE on Boston's phantom precinct

Photo and story--Boston Globe --
It’s one of the stranger rituals of Boston politics: For each Election Day, a pristine ballot box is cleaned, filled with fresh ink, and force-fed at least 50 test ballots before being lugged to a seaside precinct where nobody will vote.It’s the lonely machine,’’ said Loretta Paulding, the election warden in charge of Ward 1, Precinct 15, for the last 15 years. “But I do have to keep an eye on it. And at the end of the night, I still have to tally up zero, zero, zero.’’

This phantom precinct, made up of Boston’s Harbor Islands, where no ballots have been cast in the last four elections, is a quirk of the city’s intricate electoral landscape, which because of an obscure legal exemption has not been redrawn in almost a century. The archaic system will be on display again today, when Boston voters go to the polls to elect a mayor and City Council.

Critics argue that the antiquated structure should be reorganized and streamlined to reduce the number of precincts, an overhaul that would require fewer poll workers and police officers and save taxpayers an estimated extra $100,000 per election, according to MassVOTE, a nonpartisan voting rights group. The current, lopsided structure leaves the busiest ballot boxes with more than 2,300 voters during some elections, while other precincts have far fewer.

“This one little voting place is so out of whack that it is an indication that all the precincts in Boston are in need of adjustment,’’ said Avi Green, executive director of MassVOTE. “They all need to catch up with the last 100 years of demographics and history in our city.’’

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Prisoners of the Census - News from Ole Miss

One Mississippi. 48 states don't allow those sentenced in prison to vote, yet they include them in the election districts where the prison happens to be located. How convenient. It creates districts empty of real voters easy to win for incumbents and giving undue representation to rural districts where many prisons are built. In a welcome departure, we applaud the recommendation of the Mississippi Attorney General who declared "Inmates under the jurisdiction of the Mississippi Department of Corrections … are not deemed 'residents' of that county or locality, as incarceration cannot be viewed as a voluntary abandonment of residency in one locale in favor of residency in the facility or jail. For purposes of the Census, these individuals should have been counted in their actual place of residence. For more - Prisoners of the Census

Friday, November 13, 2009

New Multilingual Fact-Sheets from AALDEF

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund has launched its Twenty10 Project initiative to promote Census participation within the Asian American community. The initiative has kicked off with the release of educational factsheets provided in English as well as 13 Asian languages: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Gujarati, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Punjabi, Tagalog, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

Access the factsheets and find out more about AALDEF's campaign here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gerrymandering: Pure and Corrupt

Why do we continue to allow legislators to redraw their own districts? That is the question a recent editorial in the New York Times asks. Every 10 years, following the decennial census, state legislators around the county sit down to redraw not only congressional districts, but also their own state legislative districts. In effect, legislators are given the opportunity to choose their voters, rather than the other way round. This practice stymies electoral competition, precludes genuine accountability on the part of legislators to their constituencies, damages the public's trust and ultimately leads to corrupt and unresponsive government.

According to the Times, “New York Public Interest Research Group reports that in 2008 more than half of the state’s 212 legislators were re-elected with more than 80 percent of their districts’ votes. In 57 districts, the incumbents ran unopposed. New faces appear rarely, usually when a lawmaker retires, dies or, increasingly, gets convicted of abusing the public trust.” (Be sure to check out the Times' interactive feature "Redistricting New York Style" to see examples of some New York's worst districts.)

The editorial echoes arguments made by Prisoners of the Census, a group devoted to
examining the unintended consequences of counting prisoners in the census in the states where they are incarcerated. Prisoners are used as “phantom voters” to inflate the populations of the districts where they are held, and because they can’t vote, skew the numbers in favor of one party over another.

With so many viable alternatives, now is the time to stand up to legislators to demand a stop to partisan redistricting before we are left with another ten years of gerrymandered districts. To learn more about redistricting, visit The Redistricting Game website.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

D.C. passes same day voter registration

The DC Council has unanimously passed an election reform bill that includes Same Day Registration and asks the District to look at implementing a system of universal voter registration.
See this statement from Miles Rapoport, President of Demos.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A tale of two fails: the impossibility of accessing confidential Census data

(Image source- 2010 Census website)

Here's two little-known anecdotes of times that people have tried- and failed- to access confidential Census data.

1953— During the Truman administration, the White House had to undergo renovation. It was necessary to relocate the President until the renovation was completed. The Secret Service requested from the Census Bureau information on residents living in the proposed relocation area for the purpose of performing background checks. However, because census data are ABSOLUTELY CONFIDENTIAL, even to the President, the request was denied. President Truman spent his exile at Blair House.
1980—Armed with a search warrant authorizing them to seize census documents, four FBI agents entered the Census Bureau’s Colorado Springs office. No confidential information was ever released because a census worker held off the agents until her superiors resolved the issue with the FBI.

Another little known fact: in 1961, Congress strengthened the law so that even copies of census questionnaires kept in your possession cannot be used as evidence against you in a court of law.

Want it spelled out more simply? As one Census administrator put it:
"No one can get access to census data. It is rock solid secure."
--James T. Christy, Los Angeles Regional Census Office Director

Complete Count Committee guide - Census Bureau

Friday, November 6, 2009

Update on the 2008 Asian-American vote

The Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) has released “Getting Out the Asian American Vote: Achieving Double Digit Increases in Turnout During the 2006 and 2008 Elections,” based on work APALC conducted in 2006 and 2008 to mobilize Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters in Los Angeles County.

APALC's report:
  • Shows that AAPI voters respond to traditional campaign tactics such as personal phone calls.
  • Explains how phone calls made to “low-propensity” AAPI voters can generate increases in turnout which significantly exceed the typical 3 to 4 point increase produced by comparable phone calls.
  • Describes tactics that APALC and OCAPICA used in their campaigns, and highlights what tactics were most effective in turning out voters.
  • Provides information about similar work conducted by the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA) in Orange County.
The report can be found online at www.apalc.org.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

TABOR ballot questions go down in Maine, Washington

2 ballot initiatives to restrict spending to a percent of current years spending and budget went down in yesterday's elections, in Maine and in Washington.

Iris Lav, Senior Advisor, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said in a statement today:
"By rejecting TABOR, officially Question 4 in Maine and I-1033 in Washington, voters have helped these states preserve needed public services and improve the business climate. Colorado, the only state ever to adopt TABOR, suffered a serious deterioration in education, health care, and other services due to its rigid spending limits. That's why a broad coalition of residents -- including business leaders -- came together to suspend it in 2005."
The measure was widely opposed by nonprofits in both states.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How hard to count is your neighborhood?

How in danger of being missed in the decennial census are people in your community ?

Michigan's 2010 Census Planning Website makes it easy for Michigan communities to find out, allowing you to search for your addresses' census tract and its "Hard-to-Count" score designation.

The tool also brings up your area's census form mail-back rates, percent renters, percent unemployed and poverty rate from the last decennial Census.

Monday, November 2, 2009

English-only registrations creates barriers for voters

(Photo- Iowa Independent)
In March of 2008, an Iowa state court ruled that providing non-English voter registration forms to voters was a violation of a state law which required English to be the "official language" of the state.

The IA Secretary of State's office removed all non-English registration forms from its website, and as a result, non-English speakers in Iowa faced special difficulties in registering to vote for the 2008 presidential election.

With the 2009 elections tomorrow and 2010 midterms only a year away, Michael Zuckerman revisits language disenfranchisement in a working paper Constitutional Clash: When English-Only Meets Voting Rights.

"General criticism aside, English-only policies are particularly troublesome when applied to voting," says Michael Zuckerman in a recent guest column to the Des Moines Register. "This is because voting is a fundamental right and one of the most important tools of political change. To that end, requiring voting materials to be only in English infringes upon the rights of Iowans to vote and to petition the government, both of which are protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution."

To download Zuckerman's paper, visit the SSRI website here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

New Jersey students hit the mock polls

Image source

New Jersey Press Association- If New Jersey's schoolchildren could vote in the General Election next Tuesday, they would choose incumbent Gov. Jon S. Corzine to continue as the state's governor.

In addition to their selection of Corzine as governor, 74.24 percent of the students voted to approve the Green Acres, Water Supply and Floodplain Protection, and Farmland and Historic Preservation Bond Act of 2009, the Public Question on this year's statewide ballot.

Corzine, the Democratic candidate, received 46.8 percent of the votes cast in the New Jersey Student/Parent Mock Election at 183 of the state's schools. Republican Chris Christie received 31.8 percent of the Mock Election vote and Independent Christopher J. Daggett received 13.5 percent. Seven other independent candidates received a total of 7.9 percent of the statewide vote. Results will continue to be updated through the General Election on November 3.

Voting results for each New Jersey county, as well as the statewide results, are available at www.njmockelection.org .

Read more.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More on Redistricting

With 2009 elections approaching, the 2010 Census on the horizon, and America's midterm elections only a year away, now is the time to take a few minutes to understand what it means to redraw our district lines. Here are a few useful and fun learning tools.

A Citizen's Guide to Redistricting from the Brennan Center's Democracy site - downloadable in pdf form.

The ReDistricting Game - A fun and interactive way to see how partisan elected officials have the ability essentially choose their voters.

Redistricting the Nation- Get a street-level map of your congressional district, state senate district, state representative district and local district, along with the corresponding current elected officials! Find your legislators; then, check out some of the crazy district shapes this country has.

Redistricting the nation

Cool free online redistricting tool launched by the company Avencia in preparation for the 2010 Census!
By entering your address, you'll render a street-level map of your congressional district, state senate district, state representative district and local district, along with the corresponding current elected officials! Comes with easy-to-navigate tabs along the top you can use to switch views, and links to your state legislature and constitution. Find your legislators; then, check out some of the crazy district shapes this country has!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Voting Information Project

Cool initiative for those of us trying to make polling place information easily available to our constituents online -

The Voting Information Project has developed an open data format with which state election divisions can publish their voting information. Other organizations or individuals, such as newspapers, search engines, and civic-minded technologists, will parse the data contributed by the states and disseminate the information in the form of easy-to-use websites, maps, and other tools.

They have a sample tool up and running for Virginia's 2009 election, which maps your polling place location on GoogleMaps after you enter your address. Word on the street is that they hope to have similar tools for at least 25 states in 2010.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Oh, Wow.

Were you frustrated by the old, confusing (not to mention hideous) 2010 Census website?

Well, check out http://2010.census.gov now, because 2010 Census.gov has relaunched...and it's beautiful!

I especially love the new Multimedia Center, which makes it MUCH easier to get the newest census videos and photos for use in newsletters and websites. We're still getting used to the new navigation, but among the many improvements are:

1. An interactive guide to the Census form, which allows you to roll over any question on the questionnaire and get in-depth explanations.

2. An attractive, easy to read list of key dates for the 2010 Census.

3. A page dedicated to FAQs on Census privacy, an issue that has been concerning (and confusing) many in recent months.

4. A blog! Director Groves has made his first, very humble post on the brand new 2010 Census blog. Check out his first post below:

A Look from the Inside

I’m new to the role of Census Bureau Director and new to blogging.

My idea is to use this blog to let you know my thoughts about how the country is doing as we approach this “national ceremony” that occurs every 10 years – the decennial census.

I can’t promise great humor. I can’t guarantee fascinating or gifted writing.

I will tell it like it is, as I see it. Hopefully, you’ll find it interesting, as together we all approach April 1, 2010, where each of us have the right and responsibility to return a census questionnaire.

The census is a massive undertaking, with over 1 million employees working to gather information from you and me, to repaint the portrait of America. I’ll try to give you a sense of what that effort looks like from the inside.

Feel free to share my posts with your friends; feel free to comment. It will be more fun for all if we use this blog to have our voices heard.

Stay tuned. I’ll probably have a new post twice a week or so, more when a lot of things are happening.

-Director Robert M. Groves

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Check out Queer the Census.org, a project of The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and CREDO Action to have the US Census form include a question on sexual orientation. Includes some good background information on issues surrounding sexual orientation and inclusion in the Census.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hagase Contar launches website to count all Latinos in Census 2010

NALEO has launched a new Census website and initiative, "Hagase Contar," part of their Ya Es Hora program, to count every Latino in the 2010 Census. The site offers FAQs, key dates, ways to get involved, sample forms and more, all in Spanish and English. Way to go, NALEO!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Interesting tidbits on uses of Census Bureau Data in FY2007 Federal Funds Distribution

This pie chart represents the distribution, by category, of the nearly $4.5 billion in federal funds distributed among 140 federal programs during the fiscal year 2007 on the basis of Census Bureau data (data from the Lisa Blumerman and Philip Vidal of the Census Bureau.)

The following programs received less than <1% Small Business Administration, Commerce, National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities, Energy, Corporation for National and Community Service (Americorps), Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, Homeland Security and Justice.
Also interesting - out of the 140 programs receiving the $4.5 trillion in federal funds based on Census data, 11 programs (or 8%) received 85% of these funds. This chart represents the distribution of funds allotted to the top 11 programs.

Census Bureau Estimates of Federal Funding

Just came across an interesting report from the Census Bureau, "Uses of Population and Income Statistics in Federal Funds Distribution –With a Focus on Census Bureau Data." The report estimates that in 2007 alone, about $435 billion in federal funds was distributed to the states, an estimate that closely matches the Brookings Institution's estimate.
The report goes on to list many of the program funded. Here are the top 10.
Federal Program Federal Grant in 2007
  1. Public Housing Capital Fund $2,493,865,000
  2. Child and Adult Care Food Program $2,303,732,494
  3. School Breakfast Program $2,228,842,422
  4. Federal Transit Capital Investment Grants $2,089,825,532
  5. Child Care and Development Block Grant $2,051,200,000
  6. Low-Income Home Energy Assistance $1,978,500,000
  7. Adoption Assistance $1,942,289,000
  8. Home Investment Partnerships Program $1,715,671,000
  9. Social Services Block Grant $1,700,000,000
  10. Prevention/Treatment of Substance Abuse $1,670,661,450

Monday, October 5, 2009

NVEN Partner MNA in the news: "Foundations fund effort for accurate census"

From Crain's Detroit Business:
Michigan nonprofits are being asked to play an unprecedented role to make sure each person in the state gets counted in the 2010 census.

In the absence of the typical $500,000 or so in state funding for census promotion, four foundations have stepped up with $300,000 in grants made to the Michigan Nonprofit Association for pass-through to other nonprofits for census promotion initiatives.

Those foundations are the Troy-based Kresge Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Flint and the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation.

“While the current (state) budget discussions are important, they won't be as long-lasting as the consequences of the census,” said Kyle Caldwell, president of the Michigan Nonprofit Association.

Federal funding for the region and state for the next decade will hinge on the census count, said Sam Singh, former president of MNA and a consultant with Public Policy Associates, on loan to MNA for the census campaign.

For every person missed in the official count, an estimated $12,000 in federal funding will be lost over the next decade, he said, or about $1.2 million for every 1,000 people not counted.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Census Adds Languages to Advance Letter

The Census Project has just released a new Census News Brief highlighting the bureau's recent decision to include messages in languages other than English on the advance letter sent to all households next winter. The advance letter announces the start of the census and the imminent arrival of census forms at each home. The revised letter will direct recipients, in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Russian, as well as English, to the 2010 Census web site for assistance in filling out the questionnaire. The 2010 Census Web site is scheduled to launch later this month.

The News Brief also notes that the bureau also is adding a targeted follow-up mailing to its outreach arsenal, to reach households in census tracts where at least ten percent of households speak primarily Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, or Russian. The new postcard will feature messages in all six questionnaire languages, telling recipients to call a toll-free number for assistance.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Voting in Germany. And then, voting in the United States.

Germany's federal election was yesterday, re-electing Angela Merkel for a 2nd term as Chancellor.

In honor of my sister Hilary, who is studying abroad in Berlin right now, here's an interesting piece on how elections work in Germany.

In a nutshell, Germans have 2 votes.

The 1st vote (seen on the left side of this sample ballot from 2005- click to enlarge) directly elects the voter's constituency representative. There are 299 of these representatives directly elected, representing half of the lower house.

The 2nd vote is cast for a "party list" (see the right side of the ballot) and determines the distribution of the remaining 299 seats to each of the various political parties.
An additional quantity of "overhang seats" are allotted in case any party receives more votes through the 1st direct election than it would normally receive through its allotted distribution of seats based on the 2nd party vote.

See the pie chart to the left for the breakdown of seats distributed in Sunday's election.

Interesting tidbit- Germany's government takes a much higher responsibility for registering its citizens to vote than the United States government does.

Germany uses existing civil registries at the municipal level (inclusion on these lists is mandatory) to automatically generate voter lists, according to this report from the Brennan Center. If a German will be 18 by the next election, they are automatically added to this voter list and receive a notification card in the mail.

By contrast, the United States- along with Belize and Burundi- places the burden on citizens to take responsibility for knowing the rules and registering themselves to vote.

Is it any surprise that in 2005, 93% of eligible Germans were registered to vote, while in the United States, 68% of age-eligible citizens were registered to vote in 2006?

Voter turnout is generally excellent in Germany, averaging in the past quarter century at around 80% - though in Sunday's election, a "lackluster campaign" seems to have contributed to a decrease in voter turnout to 71%. However, compare this to US voter turnout, which in 2008's extremely high-profile election amounted to just 62% of eligible voters.

Imagine how US turnout might be affected if we combined the high-profile races of our 2008 election with Germany's near-universal voter registration (not to mention, their Sunday Election Day...).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

MassVOTE kicks off 2010 Census activities

On Wednesday afternoon, Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network partner MassVOTE kicked off its 2010 Census activities with an event co-sponsored by the Boston Foundation amongst others.

The event, attended by more than 60 representatives from Nonprofits around Massachusetts, featured (from right to left in the photo) Avi Green, executive director of MassVOTE, Kathy Ludgate, director of the Boston Regional Census Office, Michael Weekes, President and CEO of the Providers' Council, Paulo Pinto, executive director of the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers and Kelly Bates, executive director of the Access Strategies Fund. The speakers offered a broad perspective on the challenges and opportunities for 501(c)(3) nonprofits in the 2010 Census.

Director Ludgate provided an overview of activities in the coming months and extended the help of her office and staff of nearly 100 partnership specialists and assistants to the attending

Weekes, a member of NVEN's steering committee, spoke about the high stakes for Massachusetts in next year's Census. Based on data obtained in the 2000 Census, Massachusetts received more than 9.6 billion dollars in federal funds in 2007, of which more than half went Health and Human Services. Looked at another way, each person counted in the 2000 Census earned Massachusetts $1,493.61 in federal funds in 2007. Those individuals and dollars add up fast.

Pinto spoke about the importance of the Census to ethnic and immigrant communities and some of the simple tactics nonprofits can use to reach out to their clients and constituents. While Mr. Pinto's organization has formed a Complete Count Committee to help ensure an accurate count of the Portuguese and Brazilian community, he stressed the importance of a range of tactics from putting up a poster in your organization's lobby, providing flyers at events or including Census messaging in your communications to becoming Questionnaire Assistance Center or Be Counted site. Every nonprofit has a role to play in the 2010 Census.

Bates, of Access Strategies, not ready to concede the fight for the congressional seat Massachusetts is predicted to lose during the next apportionment, discussed the importance of a complete and accurate count of Mass residents. Bates also discussed a new initiative by Access Strategies, the Boston Foundation and a growing list of local foundations to create a Census Equity Fund to provide $500,000 to Massachusetts nonprofits for work on the 2010 Census. Bates expects that on-the-ground work by grantee organizations will be in full swing between January and June 2010. The groups will be sponsoring public education events; distributing and displaying census information onsite, in their community, and in organizational materials; phonebanking and going door-to-door to help people complete and return their census forms; and promoting the census in ethnic media and markets.

All attendees received a copy of NVEN's Census Toolkit for Nonprofit Organizations, which provides nonprofits with all the information they need to get started involving their communities in the 2010 Census. To order your copy, visit www.nonprofitscount.org/toolkit-orders

Congratulations to MassVOTE on a very successful Census 2010 outreach campaign kickoff!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Indiana strikes down voter ID law

From the NY Times-
An Indiana law requiring voters to show identification, declared constitutional by the United States Supreme Court just last year, was struck down Thursday by a state appellate court.

The state court said the law violated the Indiana Constitution by not treating all voters equally.

The major difference between the state court decision and the Supreme Court’s decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board is that the state court was interpreting the Indiana Constitution, while the Supreme Court interpreted the Constitution of the United States. Generally, state courts are given the last word in interpreting their own constitutions. (Continue reading...)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Voter Registration Around the World"

A report from the Brennan Center details voter registration systems in 16 other countries compared to the United States' system, gathering best practices and suggestions for reform of US registration methods.

Check out where the US falls when compared to other major countries on the scale of voter vs. government responsibility for registration!

Chart from - "Expanding Democracy: Voter Registration Around the World," Brennan Center 2009.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Congratulations to MassVOTE!

Congratulations to NVEN partner MassVOTE, whose initiative “We Need Two Senators” was mentioned in the NY Times last Wednesday!

The "We Need Two Senators" campaign was created in partnership with advocacy organizations around the state to encourage the State House to allow for a temporary appointment fill Senator Ted Kennedy’s vacant Senate seat; a hearing was held on the proposal on Tuesday, drawing crowds of over 600 (many bearing MassVOTE’s “We Need Two Senators” stickers).

Current Massachusetts law would keep the seat empty until a special election can be held (currently planned for January 19th, 2010), meaning Massachusetts would be down a vote in Washington this fall during crucial health care debates. "It is absolutely essential that Massachusetts not go underrepresented," said U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass. "All hands on deck."

Photo- The Boston Channel

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Will Supreme Court Open Door to Unlimited Corporate Cash in Elections?

It is hard to believe our framers fought the American Revolution, wrote the Constitution and enacted its First Amendment to protect large infusions of cash from corporate interests into elections. When political speech can only be afforded by the wealthiest sliver of the population, it seems hardly free.

Today the Supreme Court, or five of its justices, weighed rolling back six decades of rightful worrying by the top court on the undue influence of money and politics. They want to give corporations "free speech" protections, seemingly missing the "free" part of the first amendment.

More reason to consider the other option - providing public funding to elections to ensure more speech for all. Check out the excellent post by Americans for Campaign Reform on today's hearing.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New Census Resource for Nonprofits

Got forwarded this announcement through Terri Ann Lowenthal today - seems the Advancement Project is launching a new web-based mapping system! They're going to host an online webinar to explain how the technology utilized by their new mapping system "Healthy City" will be used by nonprofits for census and stimulus work, as well as to inform on the upcoming redistricting process.

The webinar will be next Tuesday, September 15th at 3:00-4:30 pm ET. The link for reserving your seat is here. Below is the login info.

Webinar ID: 287‐917‐650, Password: Healthy City
Join the conference call: Dial: 1‐800‐250‐2600, Password: 863367#

Friday, September 4, 2009

Committee to Modernize Voter Registration launches

Monday marked the launch of the Committee to Modernize Voter Registration, founded by former political campaign rivals Marc E. Elias and Trevor Potter, as an effort to bring the voter registration process into the 21st century. The paper forms system currently in place is an outdated system, they argue, that wastes resources and overburdens election officials, and voters suffer as a result. Automating the process would be:
  • more cost effective, since we would save on labor and printing costs
  • more efficient, since we'd be able to take advantage of today's technology
  • more accurate, since we'd be able to reduce human error
  • more secure, since we'd be able to eliminate third parties in the voter registration process.
To read more about the problems with voter registration and to learn about The Committee to Modernize Voter Registration's proposed solutions, visit their website.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

FairVote: If you proportionally allocate, they will come

From the FairVote blog: How Winner-Take-All Rules in Presidential Primaries Squash Turnout
  • Average turnout of all eligible voters for 2008 Republican presidential primaries through February 5: 12.6%. After February 5, when John McCain effectively secured nomination: 8.4%.

  • Average turnout for 2008 Democratic presidential primaries through February 5: 17.7%. After February 5: 23.6%.

  • Share of popular vote won by John McCain through February 5: 39%. Share of delegates won by McCain through February 5: 75%. *
For more, click here.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Census Director visits New Orleans, announces plans to hand-deliver 2010 Census forms in Katrina regions

(Image- Bloomberg) NEW ORLEANS — Census forms will be hand-delivered in the city of New Orleans and surrounding areas affected by the 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Rita to get the most accurate count possible following concerns that the region could lose federal representation and funding.

The measures announced by U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves on Tuesday did not go as far as those sought by Mayor Ray Nagin and some advocacy groups to locally count potentially thousands of former residents scattered across the country who are trying to come back.

By at least one estimate, 75 percent of New Orleans' pre-Katrina population has returned in the nearly four years since the Aug. 29, 2005, storm and levee breaches. In some neighborhoods, there remain huge swaths of empty homes. Read more.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Counting Undocumented Immigrants

A report by Afton Branche of The Drum Major Institute for Public Policy entitled The Next Economic Imperative: Undocumented Immigrants in the 2010 Census explains why undocumented immigrants must be included in the upcoming census. Among the key findings, Branche reports that:
  • A complete count of undocumented immigrants ensures proper allocation of federal funds for state and local programs that benefit all residents, including education, infrastructure, transportation, and health care.
  • An accurate count of undocumented immigrants ensures that non-profit organizations have accurate demographic data when determining outreach services, like English language and vocational programs. Better outreach means immigrants will be able to acquire the skill sets needed to contribute to their communities
  • Businesses also use census data to determine where and when to invest. An accurate count of undocumented immigrants enables businesses to invest in new markets, and create jobs in growing communities.
To read the full report, click here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Japan's Internet-free election

TIME - Campaigning officially kicked off Tuesday in Japan as candidates for the Diet's upcoming elections took to the streets to canvas for votes. And while the Aug. 30 general election could be revolutionary — with Japan on the cusp of a regime change that could end nearly 54 years of virtually unbroken rule — candidates' official campaigning methods are far from it. With 12 days to go until national elections, candidates rode in vans, armed with banners, leaflets and loudspeakers for soapbox speeches at train stations and street corners across the nation. But as their names were blared out on the first day of political open season, their campaigns on Twitter and Facebook were silent. One thing that Japanese politicians aren't armed with is the Internet. Read more.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New publication compiles first-time voter stories

(Photo- Brennan Center for Justice)
My First Vote, a new publication from the Brennan Center for Justice, is a compilation of stories from people across the country who voted for the first time in November 2008 after having lost, and then regained, their right to vote following a criminal conviction.

Here's an excerpt:
I’ve been battling substance abuse for thirty years and have been in and out of prison all of my life. But I’ve been out, and clean, for more than four years. My life has completely changed. And on November 4th, with millions of Americans, I had a say about what happens in our country. There were tears in my eyes as I waited to vote. I felt like I was finally a productive member of society. I’ve never before felt like I could make a difference in terms of what happens around me. But I walked out of the polling place on Election Day feeling like I mattered, that I made a difference. I realized how far I’ve come. Amazing. -Linda Steele, New York, NY

Monday, August 17, 2009

Census Bureau begins printing 2010 questionnaires

(Photo- Census Bureau Public Information Office)
Starting now, the Census Bureau will need to print more than 1.5 million documents every day to get ready to send out over 120 million questionnaires in mid-March to households across America.

The printing kickoff highlights some new changes made in the Census form production process this time around.

  • For the first time, more than 13 million questionnaires will be bilingual in English and Spanish, in an effort to improve mail-back rates by targeting areas with a high density of Spanish speakers.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Newest Census Bureau E-Newsletter for its 2010 Census Partners

Includes a profile of the newly confirmed Census Director, Robert Groves; an overview of the 2010 Census outreach activities currently going on across the country (including info on the upcoming 2010 Census Mobile Tour!); tips for creating an effective public service announcement and much more.

Really nice update from the Census Bureau - it's good to be a partner of the 2010 Census !

Click here to read the whole newsletter!

Learn more about how your organization can partner with the 2010 Census.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

George Washington comments on the first-ever Census

Did you know that the 2010 Census will only be the 5th time in American history that the U.S. Census is conducted primarily by mail-in forms, instead of by officials going door to door?

It wasn't until 1970 that the Census Bureau began asking households to fill out a form at home and send it in; before then, temporary census workers (and before them, federal marshals) collected the data in person.

Read what George Washington said after he was presented with the returns from the first-ever U.S. Census, conducted by federal marshals on horseback in 1790.

Returns of the Census have already been made from several of the States and a tolerably just estimate has been formed now in others, by which it appears that we shall hardly reach four millions; but one thing is certain: our real numbers will exceed, greatly, the official returns of them; because the religious scruples of some would not allow them to give in their lists; the fear of others that it was intended as the foundation of a tax induced them to conceal or diminish theirs; and thro' the indolence of the people and the negligence of many of the Officers, numbers are omitted.
-The Writings of George Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., vol. 31 Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1939: 329.

True then, true today.

Source: "American People: Politics and Science in Census Taking," by Kenneth Prewitt, Population Reference Bureau.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Aug 4th Nonprofits Count! webinar available for download

Our webinar "Nonprofits and the Census: Mobilizing our Communities for Complete Count," which took place on Tuesday, August 4th, is now available for download.The webinar, which followed on the heels of our June 4th webinar on the role of nonprofits in the 2010 Census, features special guest Terri Ann Lowenthal, Member, President Obama’s Transition Team for the Census, Former Director, House Census Oversight Subcommittee and currently a legislative and policy consultant.

Download the August 4th PowerPoint

Friday, August 7, 2009

Myths and Facts on Immigrants and the Census

Image - The Providence Journal

Recent headlines and controversy over the expansion and revision of certain DHS programs has the potential to increase distrust- by both immigrants and the groups that serve them- around agencies of the federal government. With the 2010 Census right around the corner, the timing for this distrust could not be worse.

The below list (excerpted from the FCCP) gives an excellent outline of why immigrants (legal and non-legal) and the groups who serve them, can rest assured that:

1. When a non-citizen- legal resident or not- fills out and return his or her 2010 Census form, they need not fear their data being used against them by immigration authorities-


2. It is actually
in their best interest to fill out that form.

Myth: Undocumented immigrants should not be counted by the census.

Fact: Everyone counts in the census, regardless of immigration status.

  • The census is designed to count everyone living in the United States, regardless of legal status
  • Census statistics are used to figure out what kind of services each community needs, including schools, hospitals and health clinics, and jobs.
  • Census information is used to figure out which communities have enough people who speak languages other than English so as to require services in other languages.

Myth: Immigrants can avoid the census by not completing their census form.

Fact: If you don't want a visit from the government, complete your form promptly.

  • People who return a completed census form will not be contact by the Census Bureau
  • People who don't return a form by April 1 could have census workers come to their home up to six times to try to get a form completed

Myth: Immigrants don't benefit from the census.

Fact: Everyone, including immigrants, benefits from investments in education, health care, and jobs that are distributed based on census information.

And census data are also used in ways that are of special importance to immigrants, including:

  • funding for nonprofit organizations to provide job assistance aimed at making foreign-born people economically self-sufficient;
  • helping states and local agencies develop health care and other services tailored to the language and cultural diversity of immigrants, including health care and other services tailored to the language and cultural diversity of elderly people under the Older Americans Act.
  • allocating funds to school districts for children with limited English language proficiency;

Myth: Answering the census could get me in trouble with immigration or my landlord.

Fact: There's no need to fear the census. Individual information is safe and your privacy is strongly protected.

  • The census form does not ask about immigration status.
  • Census responses are confidential and protected by the strongest privacy laws we have.
  • No other law or agency can override protections for the confidentiality of people's responses to census questions – not the Patriot Act, the IRS, Homeland Security, or ICE.
  • No private company, landlord or employer can get any household's census information, even with a court order.

Myth: Immigrants can gain influence by threatening to boycott the census.

Fact: Boycotting the census can only hurt immigrant communities and limit their influence.

Numbers matter. In the past, immigrants have been more likely to be missed in the census. Getting everyone counted will demonstrate the strength of our communities and will give us a bigger voice in government, business, and decisions that affect our lives and families.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More on same sex marriage and the 2010 Census

(From the Washington Post)
New decision from the Counsel to the Department of Commerce on collecting and reporting same-sex marriage data in the 2010 Census, as well as guidelines how the statistics and coding will be handled when same-sex couples identify as "married" on the 2010 Census form.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Census 2010 to start in northern Alaska

(Photo- BLM.gov)
Census employees will begin next year's constitutionally-mandated headcount in remote regions of Alaska north of the Arctic Circle, reports the Anchorage Daily News and the Washington Post.

The Inupiat town of Noorvik, Alaska (pop. ~650) has been reported to have been preliminarily selected as the first town in America to be counted in next years Census.

According to the Daily News, the bureau plans to begin sending out Census takers earlier in remote Alaska to "avoid the spring break-up and catch villagers before they leave to hunt or fish in warmer weather."
The Census Bureau plans to hire about 2,500 census takers to go door-to-door in cities and towns across the state. That means using float planes, snowmachines and dog sleds to reach households across 586,000 square miles, according to the bureau.
Anchorage Daily News