By Tia Lynn Ivey
Morgan County government and the City of Madison are joining forces to get the word out about the upcoming 2020 Census.
Every 10 years, the United States conducts a census to count every person living in America in “the right place” as prescribed in the United States Constitution.
“This is a very important time for us to be engaged civically,” said Janet Lee, a partnership specialist for the Atlanta Regional Census Center. Lee appeared before the Morgan County Board of Commissioners and the Madison’s Mayor and City Council earlier this month to encourage local governments to work together to ensure Morgan County’s census response meets reaches 80 percent, the goal set by the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2000, Morgan County yielded a 73 percent response rate. In 2010, Morgan County produced a 72 percent response rate.
“We want to get this number up to 80 percent,” said Lee. “We always talk about voting, which is very, very important, but the census is not emphasized as much as it should be. It’s important because it affects the quality of life for everybody. The census is tied to power and money.”
According to Lee, the U.S. Census is pivot in determining political representation, government funding distribution, and redistricting efforts.
“Every 10 years, the results of the census are used to reapportion the House of Representatives, determining how many seats each state gets,” explained Lee. “Census data determines how more than $675 billion are spent, which supports your state, county and community’s vital programs…Every federal program in the country is touched by census data… After each census, state officials also use the results to redraw the boundaries of their congressional and state legislative districts, adaption to population shifts.”
Lee stressed that the information submitted through the census is kept entirely private.
“We know that is a big concern of a lot of people an we want to dispel that myth,” said Lee, who noted some people choose not to participation in the census over fears that their information will not be kept private.
“We are the one federal department that cannot co-mingle information with other departments, we can only share raw data, the numbers,” said Lee. “We are fined $250,000 and go to jail for 5 years if we divulge the information.”
Lee urged county and city officials to form a committee to spread the word through social media postings, recruiting volunteers, advertising at community events, and mailing notifications.
Right now, Lee’s organization is focusing on a preliminary educational awareness phase to recruit local governments and community groups to push census participation. In January 2020, those efforts will be ramped up, according to Lee. The motivation phase will take place in March of 2020, with postcards being sent out to households with information on how to accurately participate in the 2020 Census. Respondents will have the option to respond to the census online, by mail or by phone. Several census postcards and reminders will be mailed to households between March 2020 and April 2020. The results of the census are delivered to the President of the United States on Dec. 31, 2020.