Sneed: The Importance of the Census

The U.S. Constitution requires that every 10 years we conduct a census to gain an accurate count of the people who live in our nation and the specific communities where they reside. The federal government uses these figures to determine funding for each state, county and municipality.

Federal money is, of course, really our money as taxpayers. By being counted in the Census we are directing the federal government where to rightfully return it. This money is then used to build and maintain our highways, roads and bridges. It goes to our schools where it is used to feed children who qualify for free or reduced priced meals, to provide technology and classroom materials for special education students or those who are trying to learn English as a second language and more. It goes to our fire departments and other public safety services to ensure they can continue to protect our citizens. It flows to our health clinics and other social services ensuring our residents’ health and mental health care needs are taken care of.

Census figures also are used to determine how many seats in Congress each state is allotted. Oklahoma lost a congressional seat after the 2000 Census. We don’t want to lose another. Census counts also help determine how state House and Senate districts are drawn every 10 years so that every Oklahoman has a local representative in state government.

Think of it this way: the communities in our House district are competing with every other community in Oklahoma for a share of these dollars. If we go undercounted, we lose money to the next district over or to another state. It’s estimated that an undercount of just 2% will cost the state $1.8 billion over the next 10 years. Right now, Oklahoma has less than 60% of its residents counted in the Census. We have only until only Sept. 30 this year to get an accurate count.

In looking at response rates and the potential cost of being undercounted for the 2020 Census, here are the results for our House District by County.

Muskogee County had only a 54.7% response rate as of Aug. 30. It is ranked No. 23 in the state. If just 5% of the county’s residents are not counted in this Census, it is estimated the county will lose almost $141.5 million over the next 10 years in federal funding.

Cherokee County has a 52.5% response and is ranked No. 32 in the state. If just 5% of this county is not counted, the estimated loss is almost $93.7 million over the next 10 years.

The Census is easy to fill out. It takes less than 10 minutes. You can fill out and return by mail the form delivered to your house. You can respond online at https://my2020census.gov/, or you can call (844) 330-2020 and answer the few questions asked. 

Please take the time now to fill out the Census to make sure our district gets back all the money we’ve paid to the federal government. We want decent roads, schools and other public safety and health care services that the rest of the state and others in the nation will be receiving.

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