I know most Americans are focusing on the upcoming general election right now, but there is something else that is REALLY important taking place that will have the same, if not more of an impact on our everyday lives:
the 2020 Census.
April 1, 2020, is National Census day. It may seem like a benign and meaningless task to some, but let me tell you how it can actually have great implications on people’s everyday lives.
The census is not just about just counting how many people are in the United States and where they live. The Census affects representation at the federal, state and local levels of government.
Before going into how important the Census is, let me tell you how it’s tied to the very foundation of this country.
History of the Census
Censuses were taken before the inception of America, with the earliest being taken in colonial Virginia.
As the United States grew, so did its needs. To serve the increase in population, we needed infrastructure. That’s where the census became an important tool beyond just counting the population. It tracked important aspects like taxation, churches, poverty, and crime.
An appointed U.S. Marshall used to conduct the census before the creation of the Census Bureau in 1870!
What is the purpose of the Census?
To put it simply, the primary purpose of the census is to allocate seats for each state in the House of Representatives.
If a state’s population grows while others slow down or decline, the number of House seats they receive will change to reflect it.
This is why it’s critically important to count everyone where they live and only count them once.
So how does the Census happen?
Because the United States is so vast, the Census Bureau is in charge.
The bureau divides the country into four regions: Northeast, Midwest, South, and West. Then they break those regions into divisions.
What makes the 2020 census unique from previous years? People will be able to respond in a variety of ways including the internet, mail or telephone.
Online forms will be available in various languages, making it easier for people to respond if English isn’t their first language.
Why is the Census important?
Besides ensuring that people are being properly represented in all levels of government, the census helps determine how state and federal dollars are spent.
According to a recent New York Times article, several departments in the government rely on the census to determine what to fund over the next decade. They include the Department of Health and Housing, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Education.
Outside the realms of government, businesses use the census to determine future planning. They use census data to determine where to expand their operations like opening new stores or distribution centers.
The Census is extremely important to the country’s major political parties because it provides them with a blueprint of how to move forward for future elections. In the past, the Census has become highly politicized because so much relies on how congressional districts change.
What are the implications of an inaccurate census?
Undercounting the population in certain areas of the country would result in a loss of representation on all levels of government and a loss of federal and state tax dollars.
This means that government programs that help low-income earners would receive less funding. Infrastructure projects may be postponed or canceled because other areas that seem to have a higher population would take precedence.
Businesses could reevaluate their plans to expand operations and move them somewhere else, affecting the economy of the region in many ways.
That is how an inaccurate census can make life harder for many people.
What’s the deal with the 2020 Census?
You may have noticed that there has been quite a bit of commotion surrounding the 2020 census. A citizenship question which last appeared on a census in 1950, nearly came back this year at the insistence of the Trump administration.
Critics argued that this question would deter non-American citizens from completing the census because of fear that the information would be used against them. This would lead to an undercount in the population, meaning under-representation in certain areas and loss of tax dollars.
Since areas with higher immigrant populations tend to vote Democratic, they believed this would benefit the Republican Party. Republicans tend to do well in areas with a higher percentage of white voters who were born in the United States.
The good news: the Supreme Court blocked the administration’s efforts to add this question to the census.
It is also really important to note that a census filer’s information can not be disclosed to anyone for a very long time. This is known as “The 72 Year Rule”.
The United States government will not release personally identifiable information about an individual to any other individual or agency until 72 years after they collected it for the census.
The idea behind this rule is that the majority of the census filers will be dead by the time they release the information. Having their personally identifiable information available to the public will not affect them.
The point of the census is to ensure that the government receives an accurate count of the population for the purposes of future planning. That is why it goes to great lengths to ensure the privacy of the filers is indeed kept private.
So why should you participate in the 2020 Census?
More than anything else, the census ensures that everyone living in the United States has a voice.
Completing the census ensures that funds in the form of tax dollars are being distributed properly.
In terms of businesses, the census provides them with vital information so that they’re able to plan accordingly and supply residents with the goods that they require.
So in short, the census ensures that everyone has a voice THROUGH PROPER REPRESENTATION.
Head over to my2020census.gov and fill it out. It takes 5 minutes!
By Jeff Martins-Sexton
A graduate of the University of Toronto, Jeff Martins-Sexton is a writer who uses his studies in history and the United States to influence his take on current affairs and the state of American society. He’s also a screenwriter and performer having studied both in Toronto and Los Angeles.
Originally posted on Tono Latino. Re-posted with permission.
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