In the United States a census is conducted every 10 years, as is mandated by Article I, section 2 of the U. S Constitution that states, “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among several states, according to their respective numbers. The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States and within every subsequent term of 10 years.” The 14 Amendment  added that “respective numbers” of “several states” will be determined by, “counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed.”
The first national census after Independence was done in 1790 when Thomas Jefferson was Secretary of State, with 22 federal censuses subsequently conducted since that time. In 1790 the U.S. population stood at 3,929,326 and by 2010, the year of the last census, that number had grown to 308,745,538.
The meaning of the word Census is a listing of citizens, which is derived from the Latin cens(ere) ‘to assess’. During the Roman Republic [509 BC to 27 BC] lists were compiled of all males fit for military service.
NYS Sen. James Skoufis [NY-39] is urging people to complete the census form. He noted that some areas in his district have the lowest response rates, citing the City of Newburgh at 43.7%, the Town of Haverstraw at 54.1% and the Hamlet of Marlboro at 55.3%.
“Those percentages are the number of people that they [census bureau] have on file that returned or answered that prompt that people got in the mail,” he said.
Skoufis said at every community event that he and his team attend, he has invited census workers, “to join us and makes sure that anyone who comes up and picks up a mask or a sanitizer, they can ask that individual if they have filled out the census and if not they can assist and fill it out right on the spot.” In addition, Skoufis and his staff have sent out mailers from his office and made phone calls reminding constituents of the importance of the census.
In explaining the low returns in a few areas, Skoufis said some people are simply distrustful of the process.
“They don’t want to give any information to the government no matter what it is,” he said. “They are concerned what happens with that information.”
Skoufis said another group feels that the census is not very important, does not hold any meaning for them and is not worthwhile. He said there is a third group who have not heard about the census, something he finds surprising, given the amount of public outreach and television advertising that has been done since the beginning of the year.
Earlier this year the President pushed to have a question on the census asking if they are a citizen. Skoufis said this has caused some concern in parts of his district, such as Newburgh, for people who are undocumented. They worry that the government could use this information to deport them at a later date.
“Perhaps there is some residual misinformation that people have, not knowing that the courts struck down that question so there may be some feelings and concerns if you are undocumented; that’s very possible,” he said.
Skoufis pointed out that since the census began, it has always counted the number of residents and not the number of citizens.
Skoufis said the census is used to apportion the members of Congress in each state.
“New York State right now is on the brink, right on the border between losing one or losing two members of Congress in the reapportionment for the next ten years,” he said. “The average person may not care about that but the matter of fact is, the fewer voices that New York State has in Congress the less influence the state has in Congress. Regardless of whether you’re a Democrat of a Republican, that is a bad thing if we have fewer voices in Congress.”
Skoufis said, “there is a tremendous amount of federal money that is tied to the census count in a state and in a community.” He stressed that this should matter a great deal to the average person, especially if there is an under-count in the state. He said that every item and expense that local communities receive is dependent on what they get from federal government, all very much tied to the Census.
“Do you have kids, yes I have kids; then your kids in your school depend on a tremendous amount of federal aid and you want to fill out the census to make sure that your kid’s school gets the full amount of aid that it’s entitled to,” he said. “If you have crummy roads, you want to fill out the census to make sure we get infrastructure money, so that our roads can get repaved and upgraded and are safe. If you care about your hospital and your healthcare and you get sick, our hospitals depend on federal money. The census can make sure that when you go to the hospital they have an adequate number of nurses, they have state of the art equipment. That is very much tied to how much money they get out of the federal government...Those are examples of what it means to everybody in Marlboro, in Orange and Ulster counties and in New York State.”
Skoufis said the current deadline to complete the census has been pushed up to September 30 rather than the usual date of December 31.
“I believe there is some court action going on right now that is challenging that deadline,” he said, with census workers now going door to door to meet the arbitrary deadline later this month.
“It is enormously important and the funding associated with the census count ought to matter to every single New Yorker,” he said.