by Terrance Kelly
Census 2010 is fast approaching, and you only need to answer 10 questions to be counted as a U.S. resident. With the government’s annual population allocation of more than $400 billion to states, there are many benefits of Census 2010. Census results help determine local legislative and congressional boundaries and the location of businesses, schools, hospitals and new housing,.
Some communities are hard to count, because of relocations, language barriers or fears about the questionnaire. Last Saturday, Oct. 17, Congressman Hank Johnson spoke with some census trainees who represent several minority groups about their role in the upcoming census.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t emphasize the need to count every individual, and for those who are reluctant, we have to emphasize the importance of being counted,” said Johnson at the Jim Cherry Learning Resource Center Auditorium on Georgia Perimeter College’s Clarkston Campus. “We want to get our fair share.
“Georgia was undercounted in Census 2000,” he continued. “Our future looks excellent, but we have to get the count done aggressively and accurately. We have to get the message out that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by being counted.”
“Census 2000 undercounted significantly,” explained Diana G. Schwartz, media specialist partnership, U.S. Census Bureau. “We realized some populations were hard to count because language, cultural diversities were barriers. For every question on a census, the government needs accurate data.”
For Census 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau has undertaken a $400 million integrated campaign that includes reaching out through promotions and advertising in 28 languages. Schwartz added, “We’re also asking the leadership of communities to talk to their people and motivate them to be counted.”
The circumstances of people considered hard to count vary. There are prisoners in various counties whose permanent residence in a different county, college students living in dormitories and people living in shelters. Some people have left areas for temporary jobs. There are undocumented workers, people being sought under warrants and people owing past due child support payments. Many of these people have fears about the census, Johnson added.
Saturday’s meeting was part of a nationwide campaign on hard-to-count populations, explained Jeff Miller, deputy communications director of Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund.
“We’re working with local groups of people who know the communities best,” Miller said. “These trainings give them the tools to explain the census and allay fears about it, while explaining the benefits for them to participate, such as jobs, federal dollars to their communities, and companies providing services. There are any number of reasons why you should be counted.”
Locally, DeKalb County Commissioner Connie Stokes was recently appointed by DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis to lead the county’s campaign to get residents counted.
Stokes will lead the Complete Count Committee, Schwartz noted. “The commissioner has taken it even further and is going to mom and pop businesses and homeowners associations to get the message out about the importance of being counted.”
The U.S. Constitution requires a national census once every 10 years to determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives. The general purpose of the census–to count the number of U.S. residents–has not changed, but in some areas it has changed drastically.
“The first U.S. Census was in 1790,” Johnson noted. “It only required White males to be counted. Now, everybody is counted. The first Census form had six questions. Now, the form is seven pages of direct, simple questions and 10 questions.”
A Census Bureau information sheet, issued May 2009, explains that a census questionnaire will come by U.S. mail or hand delivery in March 2010. Replacement questionnaires will be sent in early April, and census takers will visit households that do not return questionnaires to take a count in person.
For more information about Census 2010, go to www.2010census.gov.