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This year, 2020, presents two opportunities to engage in our common life: the 2020 Census and the U.S. election. We can make a difference by following through on our personal responsibility to participate in those events. But we also can do so much more to boost our wider community’s participation by involving students in census education and election outreach.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and The Episcopal Church have made engagement in the 20202 Census and elections a priority for 2020. The Episcopal Church is an official partner of the 2020 Census and is so far a leading faith group in that work.
As early as summer 2019, Bishop Curry spoke about “getting souls to the polls” during this election season, which is already well underway.
We all care deeply about issues of poverty, immigration, the climate, justice, and peace. We may seek opportunities to speak out on these important issues, urging our government to support programs that help the marginalized and outcast. But we must also support the capacity to effectively carry out that which we advocate for. The census presents us with the opportunity to improve the data the government uses to implement its programs, and the election allows us to elect officials at the local, state and national levels who we believe will be the best stewards of public office in creating and amending legislation.
There are a number of ways Episcopal schools can engage their communities in each of these initiatives. The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations has developed free resources ideal for school initiatives.
The 2020 Census
The U.S. Census begins in March and runs through July of this year. The mission of the 2020 Census is to count every single person in the United States without regard to age, immigration or citizenship status, whether or not someone is incarcerated or on parole, or whether they are facing homelessness.
Why does the census matter? This decennial count of everyone within the U.S. has profound impacts on not just our electoral system (by determining how many Congressional seats are allocated to each state) but also how over 130 federal programs allocate funding and other resources to best serve the population.
The information from the census is a factor in calculating funding levels for schools, infrastructure projects, and certain services delivered by state and local governments. The population data, especially populations estimates of children and the elderly, are also important for state and local governments in projecting what public services a region will need in the years to come. A more accurate count means our government can more effectively respond to the needs of our communities.
What can you do to help make this count as accurate as possible?
Promote participation within your school, social networks, and neighborhoods. Research shows that someone is more likely to respond to the census if they hear about it from someone they trust. Pay particular attention to historically undercounted populations, many of which are already marginalized groups, like immigrants, the homeless, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and low-income families that may be more likely to rent than own a home.
To help make connections, you can join or even start a census Complete Count Committee, which help to promote the census locally. You can also help educate others on the importance of the census by writing about it in your school newspaper, sharing reminders in school clubs, or even going beyond the walls of your school and amplifying the message in community organizations.
The 2020 Election – Get Out the Vote
The November 2020 U.S. election is already drawing more attention with the primary season already well-underway. The U.S. election presents the opportunity to participate in our democratic process to elect officials who have the responsibility of crafting new legislation and policies to improve our country and the world we live in. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry encourages all to, “cast your vote, not on a partisan basis, not based on your biases, but vote your values. Vote the values of human dignity and equality. Vote the values of the rock on which this country was built. Vote.”
For those who can vote, make sure you are prepared by ensuring you are registered and know where or how to actually cast your vote—consider early voting, absentee ballots if you know you will miss election day, and checking any ballot measures that you may be asked to vote on. Also make sure you research candidates who will be on the ballot—even in a presidential election year, many Congressional and state and local seats are up for reelection.
Even if students or others in the school community cannot yet vote due to age, immigration status, or other reasons, they can go much farther than simply voting to make an impact on this year’s election. Everyone can help advertise the election process—creating public reminders for voter registration deadlines, early voting, and Election Day itself. School communities can organize to assist those who may have difficulty getting to their polling station—this could include creating carpools to the polls on Election Day for those who could not otherwise get themselves there. Voters with young children may need childcare so that they are able to vote. Consider creating an inter-generational community service event by providing childcare on Election Day.
Participating in our common life together is a part of a Christian calling to love one another. We each benefit—and suffer—from how our community functions, and we carry a responsibility to engage the processes and mechanisms that help them function.
The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations is a resource for Episcopal institutions in this work. You can learn more about our work at our website https://episcopalchurch.org/office-government-relations and become more engaged in this and other advocacy through the Episcopal Public Policy Network @TheEPPN on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The Office of Government Relations represents the policy priorities of The Episcopal Church to the U.S. government in Washington, D.C. We aim to shape and influence policy and legislation on critical issues, highlighting the voices and experiences of Episcopalians and Anglicans globally. All policy positions are based on General Convention and Executive Council resolutions, the legislative and governing bodies of the Church.
Please share this article with your school community!