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For City Heights, The Path To Power Runs Through The Ballot And The Census

Martha Romero canvasses in City Heights to let her neighbors know about this year's census on March 2, 2020.
Max Rivlin-Nadler
Martha Romero canvasses in City Heights to let her neighbors know about this year's census on March 2, 2020.

The 2020 census is gearing up to be a critical one for California. As more people leave the state in search of affordable housing, California stands to possibly lose a congressional seat after the 2020 census.

For neighborhoods like City Heights, which is considered an especially “hard-to-count” area because of its high immigrant population, that loss of representation could be coupled with decreased federal support.

Martha Romero, who moved to City Heights from Colombia 14 years ago, says this is what motivates her to make sure her neighbors get counted.


“We live in an area that’s low-income, and the people that are low-income are the people that suffer the consequences,” she told KPBS.

Romero works part-time with the Mid-City Community Advocacy Network to help get out the word about the census.

She’s been going door to door across City Heights along with other part-time employees, as part of Count Me In 2020, a coalition of non-profits working together in San Diego and Imperial Counties, to make sure this year’s census count captures everyone who lives in the community.

This year’s census forms will be going out, either by mail or electronically, by the 12th of March.

This past weekend, she was joined by dozens of volunteers making hundreds of phone calls to let people know about the census, and to get out and vote in today’s primary election.


She stressed the importance of explaining all the issues to voters in an area that has seen years of low voter-turnouts.

RELATED: National City Prepares For 2020 Census After Undercount In 2010

“How my community can be protected. How my community can empower with this candidate,” she said. “How my community can take the opportunities for the jobs, the education.”

Since 2016, Mid-City CAN has been trying to increase the number of voters in City Heights by at least five thousand for the 2020 General Election.

Griselda Ramirez is the organization’s Director of Civic Engagement, who started the voter campaign. She sees the census and the act of voting as inextricably linked.

“These two things are related because the census will bring resources to this community, and when you vote, you build power,” she said.

For Martha and the other community members in City Heights, the path to power and resources on this primary day begins with getting their numbers up, either on the census or at the ballot box.

The 2024 primary election is March 5. Find in-depth reporting on each race to help you understand what's on your ballot.