Make 2020 Your Year of Civic Engagement

Submitted by Durham Tech Library on

2020 is both a US Census and election year.

Many of us are thinking about how we can make a meaningful impact in our community. Participating in both the Census and local and national elections can help us make those impacts. 

Click through to learn a little more about the Census, voting (especially in NC), and a few books to check off your civic engagement category on the Read Great Things 2020 Challenge. 

Shape Your Future: Start Here. United States Census, 2020.

At its core, the Census is about more than the government being curious about how many people (including  both citizens and non-citizens) live in the United States on April 1, 2020. In addition to being written into the Constitution, the Census is, for states, about money and power, both of which can make a big impact-- 

  • Power through elected representation: States can gain or lose elected representation in the House of Representatives depending on population. 
  • Money for education, hospitals, housing, roads, and social support systems: Federal funding dollars are allocated according to population. More people counted means more federal funding. 

The citizenship question that was in the news does not appear on the Census; however, there is a self-reported race question that you can leave blank if you choose to.  

Why wouldn't someone want to participate in the Census?

For some communities, it's a government trust issue. This year it may also be an access issue since this is the first year the Census is primarily online. Since many community centers, churches, and libraries are closed, they are unable to provide the technology to help people fill out their household census. 

For more information, check out a Code Switch podcast episode about the Census: "Who Counts in 2020?" 

Once your household has filled out its Census, it's time to make sure you're ready to participate in the upcoming general election.

For a general FYI for NC voters, Democracy NC, a nonpartisan group whose mission is to "use[] research, organizing, and advocacy to increase voter participation, reduce the influence of big money in politics and achieve a government that is truly of, by and for the people" has a general information page that includes information on registration and polling places, in addition to other information. 

North Carolina state image above VOTE in a red and blue button image

If your primary residence is outside of North Carolina, the federal government has a voter registration information page

Be aware of your voting rights before you head to your early voting or voting site-- Democracy NC also has a one-page NC Voters' Bill of Rights

Since voting-in-person may be impacted this year, you can also vote by mail with an absentee ballot

Civic engagement with the voting process may also look like working as a poll worker, especially needed since many poll workers are retired individuals who are currently more at-risk for COVID-19. Contact your local county election board for more information

One of our Read Great Things 2020 categories was deliberately chosen because of 2020s opportunities for civic engagement: A book about or that features voting or civic engagement.

Some nonfiction options beyond memoir-after-memoir of politicians, political candidates, campaign managers, activists, and those who are engaged in reporting, supporting, or countering candidates or movements. All of them count. 

And a few fiction options: 

This is a small United States-centric list. To complete this checklist item, feel free to read about voting and civic engagement around the world and throughout history.