People couldn’t be blamed too much if they’ve forgotten about the 2020 Census. First the coronavirus shut down social and business life. Then the police killing of a black man in Minneapolis focused attention that there really are two Americas – one white and one black – for law enforcement, but also health, work, education and housing.
But the census count continues, and Minnesotans are leading the way.
As of this week, 71.1 percent of Minnesotans responded online, by phone or by mail. That’s the best response rate of any state. The national average is 61.6 percent. For those of you who like to keep score, Alaska is the state with the lowest rate at 47.2 percent.
But if we’re going to get a complete and accurate count of people and where they live, only 100 percent will do.
If you haven’t responded yet, go to census.gov to fill out the form. Depending on the size of your household the process takes just a few minutes and the online form is available in 13 languages. You’ll need to count the people who lived in your household on April 1.
The pandemic slowed down some census work including followup mailings and in-person visits for households that have not responded. You can speed up the count and protect your health and the health of census workers by not waiting for an in-person visit.
The Stearns County response rate is 71.9 percent, with 59.9 percent of households responding online. Locally the bragging rights go to St. Stephen, with an 81.3 percent response rate. Sartell follows with 79.6 percent. St. Joseph, with a 71.6 percent rate, needs to pick up the pace.
The census count shapes just about every aspect of the community for the next 10 years.
Right now, Minnesota has eight members of the House of Representatives. But if the count shows other states have grown faster than Minnesota, we could lose a representative.
Latest population estimates show slower growth in Minnesota and that could mean the state could lose a seat in the House and one of its 10 Electoral College votes.
The census determines 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 count is also used to draw political boundaries for elections at all levels of government.
There’s money on the line too. Census results determine how billions of dollars in federal spending flows to our communities for education, transportation, health, housing and employment.
The federal government spends more than $57 billion a year in Minnesota so there’s real money at stake. (In 2018, Minnesotans paid $725 million more to the federal government than was spent by the feds in the state. Minnesota is one of only eight states with that negative balance of payments.) An undercount means we’ll get an even smaller slice of the pie.
Our census participation leads the nation now. But if you haven’t been counted, get to it so we’re not only first in the nation but we also hit 100 percent.