The U.S. Census: Why It Is Important to be Counted

U.S. Census takers will show residents identification.

There are 435 members of the House of Representatives, one of two bodies that write laws for the United States. Each representative represents about 711,000 people, with California currently having the most representatives at 53. States such as Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota each have one representative. Texas has 36 and Florida has 27.

What does that have to do with the Census, which is mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution and takes place every 10 years?

Simple: If you or your family are not counted, the state of California will appear to have fewer people and could lose a representative, while also missing out on millions or even billions of dollars in Federal funds.

The first census was conducted in 1790 and decennial census records are confidential for 72 years to protect respondents’ privacy (The “72-Year Rule”). Residents should have received an official Census Bureau mailing with information on how to respond online, by phone or by mail between March 12 to 20.

Starting in mid-April, Census Bureau workers mailed paper questionnaires to homes that had not yet responded online or by phone. Now there are census workers in several neighborhoods going door-to-door, including Pacific Palisades, trying to work with people who may not have responded.  Census takers identify themselves, wear masks and practice social distancing.

Although Pacific Palisades has a high voting rate, it seems that response rates to the Census have been low. In Tract 9800, a large portion of th Palisades, only 53 percent of residents have responded. The Los Angeles Self-Response rate is 55.8 percent. (To see which state/cities are leading in the response rate, visit: https://public.tableau.com/profile/us.census.bureau#!/vizhome/2020CensusSelf-ResponseRankings/RankingsDashboard.)

In addition to redistricting, the number of people in an Congressional district determine the amount of funding that state and local governments may receive from the federal government over the next decade. Additionally, if an emergency response is needed (due to earthquake or wildfires), first responders and disaster recovery personnel use the census data to help identify where and how much help is needed. Policymakers will use this data to make decisions for funding schools and libraries, mental health programs, services for seniors and food programs for children. The census affects decisions for infrastructure like roads and transportation.

By December 31, the Census Bureau will deliver the “final” counts to the President and Congress, which is required by law.

By March 31, 2021, the Census Bureau will send redistricting counts to the states—and the information will help redraw legislative districts based on population changes.

It’s easy to go online and take the questionnaire, which takes about 10 minutes. There are help prompts if you don’t know how to answer the question and the website also explains how the data is used.  (Visit: my2020census.gov)

Census takers will socially distance and do wear masks.

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