Census Concerns

An envelope containing a 2018 census test letter delivered to a resident in Providence, Rhode Island, on March 23. The nation’s only test run of the 2020 Census is in Rhode Island, and its drawing concerns from community leaders, good government groups and others about how it’s being run. (AP Photo/Michelle R. Smith)

The constitutionally mandated U.S. census is ramping up for next year, and Gov. Kevin Stitt has created a committee to encourage full Oklahoma participation.

An executive order signed last week establishes the Oklahoma Census 2020 Complete Count Committee. It consists of 20 appointees of the governor to recommend how the state can get everyone counted.

Every 10 years a census is taken to see how many people are living in the country. Other information is collected, such as age, gender and race.

The most important use of the data is determining a state’s representation in Congress. Over time, the information has been used in various ways.

Census data helps in the distribution of billions in public funds for more than 300 federal programs related to health care, law enforcement, education and transportation and highways. States use it to carve federal, state and local elective districts.

It has a direct impact on services and effects tribal and local government programs.

Businesses often use census information in decisions such as where to locate new stores or expand operations.

From a grander view, the census takes a snapshot of the nation’s demographics. It informs the public on changes within communities to project needs.

For all these reasons, having every Oklahoma resident counted is crucial. An undercount could mean a loss of public representation and funding.

In signing the order, Stitt said having a complete and accurate count of residents is “vital” to Oklahoma’s success.

“With everyone’s participation, I believe our state’s population will exceed 4 million people.”

The governor’s plan is for the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to work with local leaders in each county to form Complete Count Committees. The idea is that local people know best how to reach their residents.

The kickoff, known as Census Day, is planned for April 1, 2020, but residents can begin reporting in early March 2020. The options for response are online, telephone, paper questionnaire or in-person with a Census Bureau staffer.

Stitt deserves credit for thinking ahead and coming up with a plan to be inclusive about counting every Oklahoman.

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