April 1 marks Census Day in the U.S., a key reference date for the U.S. Census and a strong reminder of the importance of filling out the 2020 U.S. Census.
The Census, which American households should have received in the mail by now, influences everything from the Electoral College to the House of Representatives to voting districts and even to the creation of roads, schools and hospitals.
“The Constitution of the United States requires that every person is counted, whether they’re a citizen or not,” said Dr. Steven Taylor, Dean of Troy University’s College of Arts and Sciences. “It was originally created for two purposes: taxation and representation. We did away with the per-head tax when we created the income tax in the early 20th century, so from a constitutional point of view, the main purpose of the Census today is representation.”
While every Census is important, Taylor said the 2020 edition could see major changes for Alabama residents, increasing the importance of completion.
“While Alabama has grown since 2010, it has not grown at a rate fast enough to overtake other states, and we are likely to lose a seat in the House of Representatives,” Taylor said. “And for house districts, all the lines – from House lines to state-level lines – are predicated largely on population, so they’ll be redrawn and redistricted.”
In addition to governmental representation, Census numbers also affect key funding for a number of public services.
“Lots of federal funding is allocated based on the number of persons in a particular location,” Taylor said. “It will affect things like money allocated for education or disaster preparedness. In circumstances like this pandemic, it’s important to know how many people are in certain places. The Census is also how it’s determined which areas need hospitals, schools and other things of that nature.”
Importantly, April 1 is not a deadline. Residents can still fill out their forms for the next few months.
According to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, the deadline for Census self-response has been extended from July 31 to Aug. 14.
Residents can respond to the Census online at www.my2020Census.gov, over the phone at 844-330-2020, or by mail.
“It’s internet-based and took me five minutes to complete,” Taylor said. “It’s very straightforward and not intrusive. If you don’t fill it out, they’re going to come to your door and ask questions. People need to understand that this is a constitutional mandate.”