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For Mayor Bottoms, U.S. Census means more than just completing a civic duty

Mayor Bottoms is encouraging every Atlantan to complete the 2020 US Census. But for her family, the historic practice is a direct link to the past.

ATLANTA — As the deadline to fill out the 2020 US Census approaches, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is imploring everyone in the city to make sure their voice is counted. And explained how doing so can be a deeply personal responsibility, too.

In an interview with 11Alive's Shiba Russell, the Atlanta mayor shared how she is able to trace one of her Georgia ancestors from his Census response centuries ago.

"This is a copy of the 1870 Census," Bottoms said, proudly displaying a paper copy of the record. "My grandmother's grandfather - a freed slave - is listed on this Census."

Bottoms explained that her ancestor from Crawfordsville, Georgia participated in the Census just seven years after the Emancipation Proclamation, during a tumultuous time in the US' history.

"So, I am reminded of so many things during this time just about the struggles and challenges that my ancestors overcame, but to see him reflected on this Census, I think really speaks to this responsibility that we all have," she reflected.

The Mayor said that volunteers started reaching out to colleges, senior living facilities and other places where people live in large groups on Wednesday to make sure they complete the Census to be counted. Next month, she said they will focus on individual homes.

Right now, about 61 percent of Americans have sent back their Census response. In Georgia, that number is sitting at almost 58 percent. 

Mayor Bottoms said Atlanta's response rate is better than it was in 2010, but she said she wants as many people to respond as possible, to make sure they are counted in some of our state's most important decisions.

"It's how we get money into our state and into our city. It's how we get money for our schools, hospitals, our infrastructure," she reminded. "Everybody wants better roads.

But the responses also help determine how citizens will be governed, too.

"It's how we get representation in Congress," Bottoms said. "It even determines house our city council districts are drawn."

But most importantly, Bottoms said it can be a way to make sure everyone leaves their mark in history - no matter what the times may bring.

"When I see that [my ancestor] took the time to be part of the Census in the midst of all that was happening in his world - certainly we can all take time to do the same," she said.

For the full conversation with Mayor Bottoms watch below.

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