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My Turn - It's Census survey time
Thomas Vaughn

In my Sunday, Jan. 5 column, I opined on “Why the 2020 Census Matters.” I mentioned the history and primary purpose of the Census. In case you missed it, here’s a brief recap.

On March 1, 1790, Congress authorized the first decennial U.S. Census. It took 18 months to accomplish. The official count was 3,929,214 residents. From that historic and imprecise effort, the U.S. Census has been taken every 10 years since, through war and peace, bad times and good.  

Then and now, the primary purpose of the decennial census is to allocate and reallocate U.S. House seats in Congress. This year marks the 24th U.S. Census, the results of which will have electoral consequences in 2022 and beyond.

Based on my analysis of census trends, I predict at least 9 states: Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, will lose House seats.

Meanwhile, Texas and Florida stand to benefit from their rapid and substantial population growth by gaining two House seats apiece. Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon are likely to gain one House seat each.

The number of U.S. House seats is limited to 435. Hence, both parties hope to hold what they’ve got in 2020 and gain what they can in 2022. So much for the recap. Now for some questions and answers.

First, who participates in Census Bureau surveys? You do, I do, we all do. Everyone who has established a residence in the USA is counted, including those with work visas, international students, and even illegal immigrants, but not temporary visitors such as tourists.

Second, when should you expect to receive your survey notification? If you’re like me, you already have. If not, you should get it in the mail by March 20. Be sure to respond by mail or online ASAP. Otherwise, expect a visit in person by a Census team.

Third, how does the 2020 Census differ from past counts? It will be the first time you can take the survey online. The Census Bureau’s goal is to have 55% of responses submitted digitally. Apparently, the more people who respond online, the more money the Census Bureau saves by not having to track down non-respondents. The proposed budget for the 2020 survey is $15.6 billion, roughly $111 per household.

Fourth, why is a “complete count so important?” Because it is used for a variety of purposes other than determining House seats. It sets eligibility for government programs like housing assistance. It is also used to allocate almost $700 billion, or 13% of all government spending to government grants and loans. If fewer residents respond that means less resources allocated to their community.

Finally, why do we have to respond to the 2020 Census Survey? Because it’s the law!

And who wants to be branded a scofflaw?

Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at