The city of Meriden is forming a committee of community leaders and representatives — the "Complete Count Task Force" — to promote participation in the 2020 U.S. Census.
At a press conference last month, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said Meriden is considered part of the 20 percent of Connecticut that is “designated as a hard-to-count area” because some of its population is transient, making it difficult for census workers to connect with them.
But without knowing how many of us there are, and where we live, the state and federal governments would have no way of accurately drawing electoral-district maps so that everyone gets equal representation in the legislatures, and no way of apportioning government resources equally.
For example, Bysiewicz said that for every resident who is not counted in the census, Connecticut loses $2,900 in federal funds.
That’s why the Founders wanted a head count every 10 years, an enumeration of the “people” (not the “citizens”) of the United States. So they put it in the Constitution.
And that’s where a controversy arises. This time around, the Trump Administration wants to add a question to the census: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”
The suggestion came from former White House strategist Steve Bannon, who has been quoted as saying, “To me: citizens first. And we don't need a million immigrants in this country. ...” — but the question has already been challenged by at least two federal judges. So it seems the Supreme Court will have to rule on it before the counting begins.
We can’t say for sure that the purpose of the citizenship question is to scare some into ducking the census, but it makes sense that many Latinos and Asians would see reasons to keep their heads down. And a recent article in The New Yorker said, “A government estimate predicted that 6.5 million people might not be counted as a result.”
After the 2000 census, Connecticut lost a seat in the House of Representatives because of our slow population growth compared to the Sunbelt states, so the results of an undercount could be dramatic, far-reaching, and negative.
While we may not lose a seat this time around, one way to prevent another loss for Connecticut is to make sure everybody gets counted.
Once again, the Founders said to count “people.” They did not say to count only “citizens.”
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