Leaders push for higher Census completion rate with free haircuts

Published: Sep. 7, 2020 at 12:09 AM EDT
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A federal judge ordered the U.S. Census Bureau to temporarily stop winding down its operations. This comes after a coalition of cities, counties and civil rights groups sued the Census Bureau, claiming that a earlier deadline would overlook minority communities. The census was originally supposed to be done at the end of October, but the bureau revised its plan to finish the census in late September.

Local leaders in Augusta are working to make sure every voice is counted.

Through the buzz of clippers, parents filled out the census. Kenny’s 24-Hour Barbershop and Commissioner-Elect Jordan Johnson teamed up to give kids a free trim.

“It’s all about being at the shop making people feel good--When you look good, you feel good. We just want to show some love back” said barber Torrell Mims.

The kids enjoyed it too. “I look better, I get more girls” said Zaequan Middleton after his haircut.

It didn’t stop at free haircuts, Johnson wanted a way to discuss the importance of completing the census and registering to vote with parents.

“While the kids are inside getting their haircut, the parents are outside getting engaged with voter registration, census counts, and things of that nature” Johnson said. “The census determines how much resources come into our communities. We have to make sure we have a complete count of as many people as possible so that we can get the resources that are allocated for our community, so that we can do more things for our community” he added.

The most recent data shows Richmond County has a census self-completion rate of 57%. For comparison, the national rate is 64%. Johnson thinks that number should be higher. “We can do more” he said.

He’s not the only one trying reach a higher response rate. Greater Augusta’s Interfaith Coalition’s (GAIC), Black Voters Matter, Fair Count, the National Pan-Hellenic Council of Augusta, Augusta Branch of the NAACP, and Faith in Public Life have teamed up to tackle the task.

“We’re working very hard to try and make sure that we don’t leave the hard to count people out” said Rev. Christopher Johnson, the Executive Director of Greater Augusta’s Interfaith Coalition.

Rev. Johnson said people that typically go uncounted belonged to marginalized groups, are children, or live in nontraditional homes.

GAIC has signed up more than 423 people at census stations across the city and by sending volunteers into the community.

“What we do now, will impact us for the next 10 years, not just next week” said Rev. Johnson.

There will be a court hearing on September 17th to decide whether the Census Bureau can continue their plan to finish counting early. Right now, the final count is still set for the end of September.

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