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Securing the political power & representation we deserve

  Commentary: The reapportionment data from the 2020 Census is beginning to roll out, and while most of the attention was skewed towards New Mexico’s lack of population growth, there is much to celebrate for our families and for those who were part of this successful collaborative effort to count every New Mexican.

According to the data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, NM beat expectations in the 2020 census count. Why? Because together, we were able to overcome a long list of challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. And most importantly, NM successfully averted a census undercount–a situation that would have cost the state hundreds of millions in federal funding for the next 10 years. 

An analysis of 55 census-directed programs found that in fiscal year 2016, New Mexico received $7.8 billion in funding based on census results. That includes:

  • $4.3 billion for Medicaid

  • $693 million for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

  • $386 million for highway planning and construction

  • $194 million in special education grants

  • $144 million for school breakfast and lunches

  • $83.5 million for Head Start programs

The success of the 2020 operation wouldn't have been made possible without the countless volunteers, community leaders, community organizers, and trusted community organizations–working alongside state, local, and Tribal governments– that put in an incredible amount of work to ensure New Mexicans were counted during an unprecedented and historic census count. Over the course of the Get Out The Count effort across the state we collectively:

  • Completed 1,419,635 phone calls

  • Received 92,687 census participation pledges

  • Sent 314, 595 text messages

  • Delivered 271,103 mailers

  • Carried out 86,236 literature drops

  • And reached 189.191 people through social media advertising

Today we see the fruit of our hard work by keeping our three congressional seats to represent every family in our nation’s capital. Last year’s effort focused on making sure those who have been historically undercounted – Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanics – were accurately represented. Because when we are all counted, every one of our families across the state wins.

But our work is not done yet. As the census data is approved by Congress, it is paramount we work at the local level to ensure political maps are drawn fairly and equitably, to guarantee representation of each resident of our state.

It will take each and every one of us to make sure we bring visibility to our families by speaking up for our communities, ensuring there is access to the redistricting process, and allowing communities to shape the future they aspire and deserve. It is our duty to fight for our political representation and power and that it be made clear in the next iteration of state and local district maps across NM.

Ahtza Dawn Chavez is the executive director for NAVA Education Project. Huong Nguyen is the community engagement director for the NM Asian Family Center. Itzayana Banda is the communications manager for the NM Dream Team.