As required by the U.S. Constitution, a decennial census has been conducted in years ending in “0” since 1790.
From the territory it covers, to the questions it asks, to how it collects the information, the census has reflected evolution in technology, the role of the federal government, and the size of the country itself.
As 2020 nears, the groundwork is being laid for the U.S. Census, and counties are beginning to spread the word urging residents to participate in the census.
Story County staff is tasked with the census’ call to “count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.”
Director of Planning and Development for the county, Jerry Moore, was appointed by the Story County Board of Supervisors as the liaison for the Complete Count Committee, a group of individuals and organizations enlisted to spread the word about the importance of the 2020 Census in their communities.
“The point of the Complete Count Committee is to reach to out to people who have historically and traditionally not participated in the self-enumeration process of the U.S. Census, which is the goal of the Census itself,” Moore said on Wednesday.
A Complete Count Committee is often comprised of education specialists, elected officials, media members, business office executives and heads of government departments.
The county conducted a Response Outreach Area Mapper, which tracks census participation levels throughout the county. While cities like Ames and Nevada have high-participation scores that range in 25 percent to 30 percent range — the county’s Complete Count Committee is tasked with urging smaller towns like Zearing and McCallsburg that rank toward the bottom at 14 percent.
In a presentation to Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, a potential area focus for the county will be renters, farm workers, veterans, millennials (university-aged/young adults 18-24), minorities and those who are language constrained, senior citizens and snow birds, those people who spend their winters in southern states.
The census often wants to have map or a picture of a town with every person to accurately depict the population and demographics available,” Moore said.
Larger cities, such as Ames, often have increased participation levels during census years.
According to Susan Gwiasda, public relations officer for the city of Ames, the city has already began conducting information but hasn’t yet appointed a full Complete Count Committee.
“Some residents might be skeptical of providing their information to the U.S. Census, and could be wary of having that information leaked or breached,” Moore said. “But, from what I’ve heard from people at the U.S. Census, the information is confidential.”
Residents can participate in the census by mailing an application, calling a U.S. Census representative and for the first time in 2020, via the Internet.
Moore said that increased self-enumeration throughout the county brings many benefits to the country, including redistricting of congressional districts.
By federal law, redistricting must occur following a census for two reasons.
First, new districts must be drawn when a state gains or loses congressional districts as a result of the apportionment of congressional districts to the states.
Second, even if the number of districts does not change, governments must redraw districts so that the districts have equal populations.
Of course, the census data become the critical building blocks for apportioning congressional and state legislative seats.
Additionally, there is an incentive for states and localities to encourage maximum participation in the census, as $675 billion will be distributed annually based on the information gathered by the U.S. Census.
The data provided to the census are also a key resource that cities and counties, businesses and nonprofits use to guide local investments.
In August, cities and counties will conduct in-field canvassing of community addresses, before the March 2020 self-enumeration stage begins. On April 1, 2020, the U.S. Census for 2020 will be published, with the appropriate redistricting counts take effects on April 1, 2021.