We Decide If We Are Census Winners or Losers

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By Reed Anfinson
Publisher
Swift County Monitor-News

There is now less than a month for every Minnesotan to be counted in the 2020 Census. Failure by communities, counties and states to urge their citizens to fill out their census forms will have a deep impact on the future of the services they are able to offer. Failure will mean a loss of representation at the Legislature in St. Paul for rural Minnesota and in the halls of the U.S. House of Representatives. Minnesota would lose votes in the Electoral College.

Population numbers gathered through the census will determine how approximately $590 billion in federal spending that goes to states, counties, and cities will be allocated. According to the Minnesota Census 2020 website, that funding means about $27,960 per Minnesotan per decade.
Census data will be used by businesses as they make decisions about where to locate and where to expand. It affects decisions on where to locate stores and franchises.

It is used by federal and state planners as they look at the needs for roads, human services staffing, emergency network spending, food stamp programs, school funding and economic development efforts.

Minnesota is one of seven states projected to lose a seat in the U.S. House as southern and western states grow more rapidly than us. However, if Minnesota sees a high return rate on its census forms it could hold on to its eight seats while a state with a higher population, but a poor census turnout, could fail to add one.

Census completion percentages

Could lose a seat        Could gain a seat

State    %    State    %

Minnesota    73.7   Colorado    68.1

Michigan    69.8   Oregon    67.6

Illinois    69.5   Florida    61.4

Ohio    68.9   Arizona    61.2

Pennsylvania    67.6  N. Carolina    60.6

Rhode Island    62.6   Texas    60.1

New York    60.8   Montana    58.0

While the gathering data for the 2020 census was supposed to continue until Oct. 31, in early August the Census Bureau announced it would move the deadline up a month to Sept. 30. That decision has left states scrambling to get more of their citizens counted.

The Census pushed the deadline forward to “accelerate the completion of data collection and apportionment counts by our statutory deadline of Dec. 31, 2020, as required by law and directed by the Secretary of Commerce,” Census Director Steven Dillingham said in a written statement. The decision means that census takers that are going door-to-door will be called in, and there will be no more collecting census information online or by phone.

“We will improve the speed of our count without sacrificing completeness,” Dillingham said. “Under this plan, the Census Bureau intends to meet a similar level of household responses as collected in prior censuses, including outreach to hard-to-count communities.”

Democrats and former directors of the Census Bureau question that assessment. As of last week, just 64.7 percent of the estimated 121 million households in America had completed a census form. That leaves 42.7 million households absent from the critical data collected through the census.  In 2010, close to 75 percent of American households were counted in census and that was without the online option.

In a statement released in early August, four former Census Bureau directors warned that failing to extend the census reporting deadlines would “result in seriously incomplete enumerations in many areas across our country.” “The chances of having a census accurate enough to use is unclear — very, very much unclear,” said Kenneth Prewitt, who was director from 1998 to 2001.

October 31 was not the original date by which the 2020 census was supposed to be completed. That date was July 31. However, it was extended as the COVID-19 pandemic severally hampered census efforts, particularly the door-to-door in-person effort to reach those who had not filled out their census forms in print or online. President Trump had agreed to the extension. But by late July, the Census Bureau was removing references to the Oct. 31 deadline on its website showing it was already planning to cut the extension a month short.

Stevens County leads among west central Minnesota counties in its response rate to the census. Where it particularly excels is in the use of the internet to complete census questionnaires; that may be attributable to the student population attending the University of Minnesota-Morris.

Swift County, however, has one of the lowest internet reponse rates despite having a fairly high over all response rate.

Census response rate
West Central Minnesota

County    All    Internet
Stevens    74.0    61.6
Chippewa    71.2    57.4
Swift    68.6    28.8
Kandiyohi    68.6    58.4
Lac qui Parle    67.6    22.6
Douglas    62.4    47.9
Grant    62.0    39.0
Big Stone    60.5    22.9
Pope    59.5    37.2
Traverse    55.8    25.6
Otter Tail    55.1    37.3

America’s census has been conducted every 10 years since 1790 and is mandated in the U.S. Constitution. Our participation, or lack of it, will decide our influence in state and federal governments, and federal financial support, over the coming decade.

 

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