Political notebook: Gov. Cooper joins other states in calling for 2020 Census deadline extension

Published 5:28 pm Monday, August 24, 2020

Gov. Roy Cooper has joined seven other governors in urging a deadline extension for the 2020 Census for fear of losing out on billions of dollars for the state.

The request is to extend the self-response deadline to Oct. 31, which was the original deadline established. The current deadline is Sept. 30, but concerns have arisen regarding whether states can reach an accurate count in less than a month amidst restrictions in place due to the pandemic.

The letter was submitted to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham. Other states in the coalition include Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

“Your recent announcement calls into question how millions of Americans who have yet to fill out their 2020 Census will be counted. It is surprising to hear how optimistic the Census Bureau is about being able to reach 100% in less than 60 days, given the current daily self-response rate and the fact that, as of the writing of this letter, only 63% of the country has responded to the 2020 Census,” Cooper and other governors wrote in the letter. “By your own calculations made when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Oct. 31 date is crucial for the Census Bureau to be able to meet its constitutional obligation and do it in a way that does not jeopardize the public health.”

The current statewide response rate is 60.2%, which is below the nationwide rate of 64.4%. The current statewide rate is also lower than North Carolina’s response rate in 2010, which was 64.8%.

A potential undercount could put the state at risk of losing $7.4 billion per year for health care, education, highways, economic development and disaster recovery over the next decade.

Further, North Carolina currently has the fifth largest number of housing units not yet accounted for across the nation, according to data from Carolina Demography, which is located within the Carolina Population Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. That amounts to 1.6 million housing units.

Rowan County currently has a self-response rate of 62.5%. When contrasting that rate with neighboring counties, Rowan’s response rate is higher than Cabarrus and Stanly, but lower than Iredell, Davie, Davidson and Mecklenburg counties.

North Carolinians who haven’t yet completed the 2020 Census can do so by visiting my2020census.gov, by calling 844-330-2020 or mailing in their census form if one was received by mail.


Council member Tamara Sheffield participates in statewide ‘front porch party’ during DNC

SALISBURY — Salisbury Councilwoman Tamara Sheffield was among numerous North Carolina leaders who voiced their support for the Democratic presidential ticket during a virtual “front porch party” last week.

Amidst the Democratic National Convention, leaders and others from across the state recorded videos in support of the Biden-Harris ticket and hosted virtual front-porch watch parties from their homes. Sheffield said she was excited and honored to have been asked personally by the LGBTQ Democrats of NC to participate.

In a video, Sheffield noted she was the first openly LGBTQ elected to Salisbury City Council, calling on the state to “make some more firsts.”

“This is our time to make a difference. This is our time to be kind,” she said. “We were the first in flight in North Carolina. Let’s make some more firsts in this presidential election. So, are you with me on Nov. 3rd? Let’s elect Biden and Harris. It’s a case that’s open and closed.”

Other North Carolina leaders hosting the parties included Jenna Wadsworth, the Democratic nominee for North Carolina’s commissioner of agriculture; Ginger Walker, the president of LGBTQ+ Democrats of North Carolina; Rep. Deb Butler, D-18; and Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-15, who also serves as the North Carolina Senate Democratic whip.


State Board of Elections improves absentee ballot request forms

RALEIGH — The State Board of Elections has updated the North Carolina Absentee Ballot Request form ahead of the Nov. 3 general election.

Updates to the request form include a cleaner design and improved accessibility and use for all voters.

“This new form is more user-friendly and one of many steps we have taken to make voting simpler for North Carolinians in the era of COVID-19,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections. “Whether by mail or in-person, we want folks to vote in the manner they’re most comfortable with this fall.”

The absentee ballot request form can be mailed, emailed, faxed or returned in-person to your county board of elections.

The State Board also will launch an online absentee ballot request portal by Sept. 1. Through the portal, voters will be able to request a ballot completely online, with no need to print out or mail a request form.

Mail-in absentee ballots are surging across the state as nearly 30,000 have been requested by county boards as of last week.

As of Aug. 18, nearly 157,000 Democratic absentee ballots have been requested, along with nearly 45,000 Republican ballots. About 93,000 unaffiliated ballots have been requested. Less than 1,000 ballot requests have been among the Libertarian, Constitution and Green parties.

In 2016, nearly 27,000 absentee ballots in total were requested by Aug. 23.

Important tips about requesting a ballot:

  • No special circumstance or reason is needed to request, receive and vote an absentee ballot. Any North Carolina registered voter may request and receive a mail-in absentee ballot for the 2020 general election.
  • Although the request deadline is 5 p.m. on Oct. 27, the State Board encourages voters who wish to vote by mail to request a ballot as soon as possible. This will help voters avoid any problems caused by U.S. Postal Service delays.
  • Your county board of elections will begin sending ballots on Sept. 4 to those who request them. If you have already requested a ballot and do not receive it between Sept. 15 and 20, email or call your county board of elections to ask about the status of your request.
  • If you’ve already submitted a request form, please do not submit another one, even if you get one in the mail. Duplicate requests are burdensome for county boards of elections and may delay the processing of your request.
  • Along with the new form, the request Form is still a valid form for the 2020 general election.

North Carolina voters have three options for voting: mail-in absentee, in-person during the early voting period, and in-person on Election Day. Significant health safeguards will be in place for voters who cast their ballot in person.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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