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Daily Journal
     January 30, 2020      #83-30 KDJ

Ron Jackson: Census participation is your

By Ron Jackson

It is that time again when we look back at what was and make a promise or give hope that what lies ahead will be better. Jan. 1, 2020, not only rings in a new year but a new decade, a significance that is too often overlooked.

As we say good-bye to a decade that brought us a movement of who matters or belongs, the most important year of every new decade arrives with certain dual individual and governmental responsibility, a constitutionally mandated selfie or U.S. Census. Ready or not, it is time to be counted. And, you matter.

In lieu of a resolution of attaining personal physical, financial or psychological improvement,this year I am merely hoping for a collective national resolution for 2020. Granted, it is wishful thinking, but any hope of changing any personal behavior falls a far second to hoping for full citizen cooperation in the two biggest events to occur this new year. The beginning of this new decade includes the U.S. Census and our next presidential election. We not only matter, but some of us will matter twice.

Of the two citizen participation events, the census is the most important because it occurs only once. We have three chances to choose a president in the next decade. However, we are only counted once. The census provides us with a view of who we are and where we are. It is comparable to that family reunion photo. It is going to change in the following years, but this is who we are right now. While family reunions are completely voluntary, the U.S. Census is not.

The U.S. Constitution mandates that a census be taken every decade for the sole purposes of representative and taxes apportionment. In a nutshell, the more people counted in a state is a direct correlation to the number of its 435 U.S. representatives and the federal distribution of taxes each state will receive. Every state will always have two senators, but the number of seats in the House of Representatives of each state is determined by the census.

After the 2010 census, Illinois lost one congressional representative seat. Early projections are that as a result of the population out migration over the last five years, we will lose another congressional seat and possibly two after the 2020 census.

Everyone is counted. Everyone matters. Citizens of every age, immigrants, including undocumented, and visitors, too. There is no citizenship question on the census questionnaire this decade. The more people in your state, the greater the apportioned representation and piece of the federal billions that is distributed to the states.

Yes, the census survey might appear intrusive. With questions such as your age, date of birth, race, home ownership, relationship to central figure of the address, phone number, it might seem as if the government is being a little too close for comfort.

While everyone is important to the census, if a person is that important to the government, the government already has all the information it needs. The government already knows more about you than you know about yourself. The census information is not made public for 72 years. You can probably guess where you’ll be in 2092.

There is no alarm to answering the survey questions. Within a day, with the exception of date of birth and race, the information could change. Two factors every census respondent must keep in mind are the penalties for not participating or for not providing information or providing false information.

There are other important benefits for participating in the census. The census plays a role in the dreaded and misunderstood electoral college. It also provides invaluable data for the long-term business development across the country.

However and wherever you ring in 2020, raise a glass, responsibly of course, of whatever you choose to yourself because you really do matter this year. Twice if you are eligible to vote.

Ron Jackson is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal and can be contacted at rjackson@daily-journal.com.

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