Accurate census headcount vital for Minnesota

Mike KnaakEditorial, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. JosephLeave a Comment

This count really counts.

In the past 10 days, most people received a letter from the U.S. Census Bureau asking for participation in the 2020 Census.

While public health stories dominate the daily news, the census deserves some attention too.

Every 10 years, the federal government counts how many people live here.

Governments use that data to fund and plan a variety of social, educational and public safety expenses. The count is used to direct billions of federal funds for schools, roads and other public services. Census data also drives planning for transportation needs and emergency readiness.

Most importantly, the count is used to draw political boundaries and determine our representatives at all levels of government.

The Supreme Court struck down the Trump Administration’s effort to ask a citizenship question that would presumably depress the accuracy of a headcount. We need to emphasize the census counts the number of people as stated in the Constitution, not citizens.

Getting an accurate count is always important, but this year, an accurate count carries significant implications for Minnesota’s 5.6 million people.

Latest population estimates show slower growth in Minnesota that could mean the state will lose a seat in the House of Representatives and one of its 10 Electoral College votes.

The census this spring will determine how the country’s 435 congressional seats are divvied up. Minnesota barely hung onto its eight seats after the last census in 2010, but its growth hasn’t kept pace with states such as Florida and Texas that are poised to gain seats. Minnesota’s projected population could fall between 21,000 and 25,000 people short of keeping the seat.

The census letter includes a website and a unique ID so you can complete the survey online. The questions are simple: names, ages, gender and race of people who live at your address. The process takes less than 10 minutes.

If you don’t respond online, the Census Bureau will send you a paper questionnaire to complete and mail back.

Your response is required by law and your answers are confidential. If you don’t respond online or by mail, the Census Bureau will send an interviewer to your home to collect your answers in person.

The new population estimates illustrate the importance of an accurate census count this spring and summer.

Growth is driven by births, deaths and migration. The number of births has remained low since the recession and there has been slower international immigration for several years, according to the consulting firm Election Data Services. The biggest swing in 2019 was a steep dive in the number of people arriving in Minnesota from other states, dropping from 6,500 to nearly zero.

Minnesota’s population grew by about 0.6 percent last year, or about 33,000 people. That was down slightly from 0.7 percent the prior year. Annual growth rates have generally hovered in that range since 2011, though they nearly reached 0.8 percent in 2017. Texas, by comparison, grew by about 1.3 percent last year.

Do your part to make sure every person that’s here gets counted. Fill out your form. Remind your friends and family to do the same. Encourage members of the community who may be new U.S. residents and who may be skeptical  about the government asking personal details. Offer to help those who need assistance online or with the paper form.

During these stressful days, it’s understandable we focus on immediate fears and concerns. But take a few minutes to complete the census form that will shape the country for years ahead.

Author: Mike Knaak

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