We cannot allow partisanship to derail one of the cornerstones of our democracy

To the Editor:

The United States Census, which is constitutionally mandated to count every person in the country every 10 years, has traditionally been carried out in a rigidly nonpartisan fashion. A number of decisions made at the national level gives us worry that this will not happen.

A recent appointment of political appointees from outside the agency (CNN Reports, July 8, 2020) raises concern about turning this once-a-decade constitutional mandate into a partisan dispute. We are especially concerned because these new appointees have argued that there is little need to reach out to places that have low response rates, which would include some of the cities and municipalities in Albany County.

A recent Los Angeles Times article (July 22, 2020) reported that President Donald Trump has directed the Census Bureau to exclude non-citizens from the final count in direct violation of the Constitutional mandate, which adds to our concern. The question of whether to include non-citizens in the final census figures or not was definitively settled by the Supreme Court (June 26, 2019) because no acceptable justification for adding the question was given to the court.

The decennial count, which is used to determine congressional representation and federal funding, was ramping up as the pandemic struck, further complicating the efforts to count every person living in the U.S. The in-person work of following up with households that did not respond to multiple mailings has resumed in some areas.

The Census Bureau reported that this is happening in Maine, West Virginia, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, and Oklahoma (Census Bureau release, July 14, 2020). The motive to outreach to these particular areas and not others is troubling, especially since several of these places already have response rates (https://2020census.gov/en/response-rates) that are much better than most of the municipalities in Albany County, not to mention the whole of New York State itself.

We have written in this newspaper for some months to alert Altamont citizens that, if they have not received or forgotten to return their census form, they can call or respond on the internet to the census questionnaire.

The last time we wrote, we alerted our community that Census Bureau staff would be coming to households that have not responded. Sadly, what we have watched occur on the national scene causes us to have little confidence that that will happen here in our area.

We have come to conclude the only sure way to ensure that you are counted, is to do it yourself not wait for the Census Bureau to show up to help!

In Altamont, we currently estimate that 200 households have not responded yet. If you happen to be one of these households, we ask that you please complete and submit your census information in any number of the following ways:

— If you received a census notification with a specific ID code in the mail, go to the link: my2020census.gov, enter your ID code where noted, and complete the form;

— If you have received a census questionnaire by mail, complete it, and mail it back in the provided envelope, postage-free;

— If you have not received a mailing, go to the link above, click on the button that says, “If you do not have a Census ID click here,” and you will be led through a series of questions after you enter your home address;

— If you do not or cannot complete the form online, you can contact the Census Bureau by phone to complete the form. Call toll-free: 1-844-330-2020.

We cannot allow factionalism and partisanship to derail one of the cornerstones of our democracy.  Please help us ensure that every one of us is counted by responding to the census now.

Jim Gaughan

Altamont Mayor 2005-17


Joe Burke


Altamont Free Library


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