Alva Review-Courier -

Accurate census count is vitally important


November 27, 2019

Every ten years, the U.S. population is counted through the Census Bureau. As next year’s census approaches, we’ll be hearing more about the importance of counting every individual residing in our country. From 2020 to 2030, the data collected will impact our lives in many ways. That’s why state, county and local officials are focused on getting everyone counted.

A few months ago, a representative from the state spoke to the Alva City Council about the census. The Woods County Commissioners have hired someone to facilitate the census in the county. At a recent Alva Chamber of Commerce Community Coffee, Chamber Director Alex Mantz and Woods County Economic Development Director Sonja Williams discussed the upcoming census.

I talked a couple of times with a man from the state office for the census who was living in Alva and doing preliminary work.

The census, which will be online for the first time in 2020, counts everyone in the state on April 1, 2020. College students who are living away from their parents (in a dorm or in off-campus housing) should fill out their own census form. Prisoners are to be counted in the city and county where they are incarcerated. Undocumented immigrants are to be counted also. The census data is confidential. It will be used in population counts but individual forms are not accessible.

The Oklahoma Department of Commerce operates the State Data Center for the state of Oklahoma. A partner of the U.S. Census Bureau, the State Data Center ensures Oklahoma’s citizens, communities, and businesses have access to critical Census data.

The 2020 Census will determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and is used to proportionally distribute billions in federal funds to local communities. The Oklahoma Department of Commerce and their partners are working with local and tribal governments to prepare for Oklahoma’s participation in 2020’s decennial census count.

Much of the preliminary work has been done. According to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, this is the timetable for the census:

Census Timeline

July 2017 – April 2018: Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) Program for local governments

2018: Complete Count Committees begin local Census organizing work

April 2018: Census questions delivered to Congress

July 2019: Communications and advertising campaign begins

August 2019: In-field address canvassing and group quarters operation begins

March 2020: Door-to-door enumeration and enumeration at transitory locations begins

April 1, 2020: 2020 Census Day

April 2020: Non-response follow-up begins for households that did not submit a Census form

Importance to Oklahoma

In May, Congressman Frank Lucas wrote the following column:

Shortly after the inauguration of the United States’ first president in New York City, the First United States Congress signed the Census Act of 1790.

Signed into law by President George Washington, Vice President John Adams, and Speaker of the House Frederick Muhlenberg, the Census Act of 1790 called for “the marshals of the several district of the United States shall be, and they are hereby authorized and required to cause the number of the inhabitants within their respective districts to be taken”.

Since 1790, our nation has taken a count of its population every decade, ensuring that our representative democracy functioned properly and responsibly. Thus, the importance of an accurate count has become invaluable.

In rural areas especially, it is vitally important that accurate counts of the population are recorded in order to provide true and equal representation from our nation’s capital to the state legislature.

Because of the importance of providing such an accurate count, several states have begun investing in initiatives ensuring that their census outreach programs provide as much of an accurate count as possible.

Similar to how exploration has influenced our nation’s geographical boundaries, time and social influences have also affected the make-up of an ever-increasing population.

Following our Nation’s first census, the needs and interests became more complex resulting in a more detailed process for providing more information regarding our country’s civic, social, and economic well-being.

After the boom of the Industrial Revolution, the U.S. Census of 1810 included detailed commerce data relating to the successes of America’s manufacturing industry. Thirty years later in 1840, the first questions relating to agriculture were introduced- paving the way for what would become the United States Department of Agriculture’s annual Census of Agriculture. And in 1850, questions relating to the influence of our nation’s societal and cultural factors such as taxation, crime, and education were added- ensuring even more detailed data was included for the make up of our federal programs.

Decade after decade, the U.S. Census is a portrait detailing our nation’s economic and social characteristics. And the importance of each survey cannot be underestimated.

Since 1790, the U.S. Census has accounted for congressional representation but over time the census has headed additional responsibility in ensuring that our republic truly represents the people.

In addition to shaping representation on the federal level, census figures are used in the apportionment and redistricting at the state and local government level ensuring that equal representation is found on all levels of our government.

Whether it’s allocating federal, state, and local grants, revenue-sharing programs, and even basic research for our academic institutions, the census is vitally important to how we shape our future.


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