Lost in all the coronavirus craziness has been that there’s a pretty-big-deal headcount going on right now across our nation. Kudos to Minnesotans and Wisconsinites for noticing.
The Gopher State currently ranks No. 1 in the U.S., and the Badger State No. 2, in participation so far in Census 2020. The every-10-years tally of people determines boundaries for political representation and federal funding for everything from student loans and food stamps to energy assistance and highway construction. In Minnesota, every person counted means another $2,796 to the state from D.C. every year. So an accurate count is critical — and fair.
This year’s counting started just before COVID-19 began shutting down our economy and country. In spite of the distraction of a pandemic, a nation’s-best nearly 70% of Minnesotans completed their Census form online, by phone, or via email. The state already is fast approaching our participation rate of 74% in the last count in 2010.
Wisconsin has 67.1% participation so far, landing it second in the country behind only its neighbors to the west. Also neighboring Minnesota, Iowa ranks third at 66.6% participation so far, according to census.gov.
Nationally, 59.7% of Americans have filled out a Census form.
Closer to home, Twin Ports residents can step it up in comparison to the statewide numbers. St. Louis County was at 62.3% Thursday, ranking it 866th of 3,215 counties nationwide. That puts St. Louis in the top 27% of counties nationally. Douglas County is 1,109th with 59.8% participation, placing it in the top 34% of all counties in the country.
Those typically undercounted include young people, the elderly, indigenous people and other people of color, and people of lower incomes.
"If we undercount, if people don't take their census, then we miss out," Duluth Census Coordinator Cindy Wilson said in an interview with the News Tribune Editorial Board in March.
Fortunately, there’s still time to be counted. Filling out the form at census.gov takes only about 10 minutes, and only one person per household needs to do it. Questions aren't invasive, either; you don't even need to put down your name if you don't want to.
For residents who don't respond, census takers are still expected to reach out to homes, despite the pandemic, between May 27 and Aug. 14, as the Echo Press of Alexandria, Minnesota, reported recently. Census officials are already working with colleges, senior centers, prisons, and other facilities, and will through June 19, to ensure no one is missed in such places.
The Census Bureau is required by law to deliver its headcount to the president and Congress in December.
We all can consider it part of our civic duty and responsibility to participate. It's certainly in the interest of everyone concerned about accurate and fair political representation to have an accurate count. And cities like Duluth are certainly counting on us — all of us — to be counted for the federal dollars they’d lose out on otherwise.