Travis County staff introduces new census program manager ahead of 2020 count

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Following Travis County’s commitment last year to take on a leadership role in the region’s upcoming census effort, staff introduced Census Program Manager John Lawler at a July 30 meeting of the Commissioners Court.

Lawler—who has experience in campaign organizing at the local level in Austin, including with the Keep Austin Affordable Coalition and as a staff member for Austin City Council Member Greg Casar—will be the first person to serve in the role. His tenure will run through September 2020.

The temporary census program manager position is the product of an agreement between the county and the city of Austin to energize and coordinate census outreach and education efforts locally. While funded by both, the position will be located within the county government.

The county received 48 applications for the position.

The upcoming 2020 census is likely to have a major effect both at home and across the country.

One analysis cited by Intergovernmental Relations Officer Deece Eckstein estimates for each person missed in the census count, the local community loses $1,500 in federal funding annually.

It is anticipated Texas could gain an additional two or even three U.S. House districts as a result of population growth. Census data will also be used to redraw congressional districts at the federal, state and local levels.

A federal court ruled in 2011 that the maps drawn by Texas legislators following the 2010 census were racially gerrymandered. The affected districts included U.S. House District 35, which runs between Austin and San Antonio and is represented by Democrat Lloyd Doggett.

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Texas lawmakers did not intentionally discriminate against voters of color in 10 of the 11 districts under consideration.

The Texas Legislature will be responsible for redistricting during its 2021 session, following the upcoming census effort.

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Emma Freer
Emma Freer began covering Central Austin for Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. Her beat includes the Travis County Commissioners Court and local business news. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2017.
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