Stacey Abrams launched a nonprofit group Monday designed to ensure that hard-to-count populations are tallied during the 2020 U.S. Census, which will shape how taxpayer dollars are spent and trigger the redrawing of the state's political maps.
The organization, Fair Count, will focus on minorities, non-English speakers, renters and others who are more likely to be skipped in the once-a-decade headcount of the U.S. population. Based on the latest census estimates, roughly 20 percent of Georgians live in hard-to-count neighborhoods.
“Georgians risk missing out on critical federal dollars, business opportunities and may suffer unfair or inaccurate redistricting if we don’t get this count done correctly,” said state Rep. Carolyn Hugley, a close Abrams ally who chairs the new group’s board.
The Census has long struggled to tally some minority populations. The bureau said it missed more than 1.5 million minorities in 2010, particularly blacks, Hispanics, renters and young men. That came despite an intense outreach effort that pushed the total cost of the tally to $15 billion.
The stakes are high: The data collected from the once-a-decade count of every person living in the U.S. will determine each state’s share of representatives in Congress and nearly $900 billion in federal funding for healthcare, education and other public services.
It's the latest public policy initiative by Abrams, a potential 2020 candidate who founded the group. Since her narrow defeat in November to Gov. Brian Kemp, she has worked to raise the profile of Fair Fight, a voting rights group she started that has challenged Georgia's electoral policies in court.
Fair Count will be led by Rebecca DeHart, the former executive director of the Democratic Party of Georgia. Jeanine Abrams McLean, an evolutionary biologist and Abrams’ sister, will be the group’s program director.
Along with Hugley, other board members include DuBose Porter, the former lawmaker and chair of the Democratic state party, and Sachin Varghese, a well-known Atlanta attorney and party activist.
“We need organizing, innovation and a thorough understanding of data and processes to get this job done,” said Abrams McLean, a former CDC scientist, adding: “We can do better. Because if you aren’t counted, you simply won’t count.”
State business records show Abrams converted a nonprofit she started in 1998, Third Sector Development, to become Fair Count earlier this year.
The Trump administration said the findings from the question will help protect minority voting rights and that the move to seek the answer is nothing out of the ordinary.
Civil rights groups and other critics say it will discourage immigrants, including those not in the country legally, from participating in the mandatory surveys - and thus skew the congressional reapportionment process and federal funding formulas.
The U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide on whether to allow the question, which if allowed would be the first time it's asked of all U.S. households since 1950.
Fair Count launched with a two-minute video featuring Abrams, who said that “too many Georgians feel unseen and unheard – and these are the voices we need in Georgia the most.”
In the clip, Abrams McLean and DeHart said the organization will contact the hard-to-count groups through traditional organizing methods, digital outreach and faith-based initiatives.
“Our democracy is stronger when all voices are heard,” said DeHart.
About the Author
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.