Two upcoming dates are critically important to the future of the Downtown Long Beach community: the 2020 Census deadline on September 30, and the upcoming election on November 3. Participation by Downtown residents in the 10-year Census and in the fall election will ensure that the community receives adequate federal funding, has accurate electoral districts, and a voice in choosing their elected officials.

Why the Census is Important to Downtown

As of late August, the City of Long Beach had a 65.4% response rate to the 2020 Census – a once in a decade effort to count all citizens in America, according to Julian Cernuda, the City of Long Beach’s 2020 Census Project Manager. “To put it in context for you, that is in comparison to a 68% completion rate in 2010. The goal is not just to reach 2010 levels but really to exceed that, because there is so much riding on the line once every ten years,” he said.

Cernuda explained that the Census should be important to Long Beach residents for two reasons: ensuring the community receives appropriate funding and has fair political representation. The Census is a tool used by the federal government to determine the number of representatives each state receives in Congress, how electoral district lines are drawn, and how much federal funds are allocated to communities. On a local level, the Census is used when Long Beach City Council Districts are redrawn, a process that will begin again next year.

Downtown Long Beach is considered a “hard to count community,” a Census Bureau term for areas where demographic and other factors make it more difficult to count residents. High density buildings, immigrant populations who speak English as a second language, a high percentage of renters and young residents – all of these are factors that typically lead to less participation in the Census, and they happen to apply to Downtown, according to Cernuda.

“We want to avoid what’s called an undercount because that directly translates to less representation across the government and less funding for our communities,” Cernuda said. Federal funding in communities affects nearly every aspect of daily life, he explained – local playgrounds, school lunches, local hospitals, safe streets, and much more.

“For every person that goes uncounted, we lose $2,000 a year for 10 years,” Cernuda explained. “Over a ten-year period, that’s $20,000 per resident that we do not get.” If thousands of people do not respond to the census, “that could amount to our community and our City losing millions of dollars in investment that we could have used to have a better quality of life for our residents here,” he said. “That’s why it’s so important.”

The Census takes only five to ten minutes to complete. “You can complete it online at My2020Census.gov or you can also call the Census Bureau or even respond by mail if you received a paper form,” Cernuda said. If you have not yet filled out the Census, he added, be aware that you will be visited by a Census enumerator or “door knocker” who will remind you to do so.

Election 2020: Voting in November

On November 3, Downtown Long Beach voters will have the opportunity to vote for president and other federal offices, consider ballot initiatives, and select their local Long Beach Council District 2 representative. Council Members create City policies, decide on the City budget, and vote on issues affecting Long Beach residents. Voting for your Council District representative gives you a voice in who represents you in these processes.

Due to the ongoing public health crisis and physical distancing restrictions, there is some confusion about how the 2020 election will play out. Long Beach City Clerk Monique De La Garza shed some light on the process and what the City and County of Los Angeles are doing to ensure a smooth election in which all votes are counted.

“The number one thing people should know is that they will be receiving a Vote by Mail ballot,” De La Garza said. “That to me is the most important thing, because if you don’t know that and you get it, you might not know what it is.”

All voters in California are receiving Vote by Mail ballots to ensure they can vote safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. De La Garza is encouraging Long Beach residents to check their voter registration status to ensure it reflects their current address and that their ballot will be mailed to the correct address. Voters should also update their signature; when you send in your ballot, you must sign the back of it, so it is key that a current signature is on file. To check your registration status and signature, visit LAVote.net.

Ballots will be sent to voters beginning October 5, and they can be mailed (the postage is already paid for), dropped off at a polling place or voting center, or deposited in a secure Vote by Mail drop box.

A Vote by Mail drop box at Long Beach City Hall.

Due to recent changes enacted in the U.S. Postal Service that have caused concerns about mailing ballots, 16 Vote By Mail drop boxes have been installed throughout the City of Long Beach, including one outside City Hall in Downtown (411 W. Ocean Blvd.). “These drop boxes are manned by the County, so it’s a direct path for your Vote by Mail ballot to get to the County [to be counted],” De La Garza noted. Click here to view a list of all Long Beach drop box locations.

Polling places will still be open, although there will likely be fewer than is typical, De La Garza noted. “I know there are a lot of people out there who feel like they want that experience of going and casting their vote on election day, and that option will still be available,” she said.

Historically, polling center workers are often retirees and senior citizens. Because this is a population at higher risk of COVID-19 complications, fewer people are signing up to work at the polls this year, and the County is seeking new recruits, De La Garza noted. If you are interested in working at a polling station, click here.

Elections in the City of Long Beach are run by the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office with support from the office of the Long Beach City Clerk. While the City of Long Beach used to run its own elections,State legislation enacted last year required the City to conform municipal election dates to State primary and general election dates and to pass management of its elections to Los Angeles County. This change was made because, as required by a new State law, cities with low voter turnout were required to make these changes, De La Garza explained.

This means that for the first time, Long Beach’s general election is aligning with both State and Federal elections on November 3, and De La Garza is expecting a higher turnout as a result.

In advance of the November 3 election, the October Downtown Scene Newsletter will feature a Q&A with the Candidates Cindy Allen and Robert Fox as a tool to inform Downtown District 2 voters. If you would like to submit a question for consideration, email DLBA Communications Manager Samantha Mehlinger at SamanthaM@dlba.org.