Be counted, census affects representation and funding

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 2/22/00.

Minnesota has grown a lot in 150 years. In 1859, the number of people residing in the newly established Minnesota Territory was determined to be about 6,077. According to Mary Kiffmeyer, Minnesota Secretary of State, today 4.775 million population reside in Minnesota and 272.7 million in the United States.

Kiffmeyer said the census has been an important civic exercise since the inception of the United States. Mention of the census in the U.S. Constitution comes early, in Article One: “Represen-tatives…shall be apportioned among the states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers…the actual count shall be made every 10 years.”

Because the U.S. House of Representatives is limited to 435 seats, when one state gains a seat, another has to lose one. Such reapportionment occurs every 10 years, after every census. Based on estimated population numbers, analysis by a private organization, Election Data Service, suggests that if congressional reapportionment were conducted today, 10 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives would shift, affecting a total of 16 states.

According to Kiffmeyer, as the 17th fastest growing state, Minnesota’s population growth has kept pace well enough so that we are not expected to lose any of our eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, but other states are not so fortunate. Wisconsin is likely to lose one representative.

Each state is guaranteed at least one House seat regardless of population.

Ultimately, the census count has a bearing on the strength of our voice in Congress on important national issues– from taxation, to military, to gun rights, to transportation, to trade policy, and so on, said Kiffmeyer.

Similarly, a complete count at the local level ensures full and fair representation in the state Legislature in St. Paul. The Minnesota Legislature will be redistricted in time for the 2002 election.

Many individuals use the terms reapportionment and redistricting inter-changeably even though the two terms have very different implications, according to the Census Bureau.

Redistricting refers to the actual division of congressional districts or the drawing of the congressional district lines within a state into new districts after each census.

The Census Bureau estimates the 1990 census failed to count many thousands of Minnesotans, and some critics have argued that contributed marginally to the decline in rural and urban representation in Congress.

Local funding
Under counting is a serious problem. In addition to representation, over $200 billion in federal funds are distributed annually to state and local governments based on the census population count.

Paynesville City Administrator Dennis Wilde said the city will receive $319,195 in state aid for 2000 based on an estimated population count.

“Demographers estimate every city’s population in an off year between census counts,” Wilde said.

Zion Township Clerk Carolyn Reeck said Zion Township receives $4,000 in local government aid, which is based in part on the township’s population.

Jean Woorster, administrative assistant for the Minnesota Association of Townships, said township populations affect all funding formulas used in determining where state and federal grant funds are distributed.

Census schedule
Second District Congressman David Minge said five out of six homes will be asked to answer the census short form. This survey will count each member of the household and ask a few other brief questions. Every sixth home will receive the American Community Survey, a longer questionnaire that will help paint a clearer picture of who we are as a nation, what our neighborhoods look like, how our country is changing, developing, and expanding, and how it is staying the same.

According to the Census Bureau, letters will be mailed to every home in early March alerting residents that census forms will be arriving soon. In mid-March, census forms will be delivered by the postal service or by enumerators in some rural or remote areas. In late March, letters will be sent to all households reminding them to return the census forms by April 1, Census Day. In early April, the Census Bureau is considering mailing a replacement census form to every home in case the first one was overlooked or misplaced. From late April to June, about 300,000 census takers will go door to door to follow up with households that have not responded to the mailing. Census enumerators also may revisit housing units that are identified as vacant or nonexistent in earlier operations or that submit incomplete questionnaires to ensure that all residents are counted.

The Census Bureau will also send outreach workers to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and other locations used by people who do not have a residential address.

Snowbirds should be counted in their home states
State and local officials are urging Minnesota “snowbirds,” people who live most of the year in Minnesota but spend the winter in a warmer climate, to wait until they return home to fill out their 2000 census forms. The census forms will be mailed out in late March, a time when many snowbirds are still in Arizona, Florida, Texas, and other warm weather havens.

“People are supposed to be counted at their usual residence, the place where they live most of the time,” says state demographer Tom Gillaspy. “If people live at least six months in their Minnesota homes, they should be sure to fill out the form at their Minnesota address.”

The census is important because it determines the amount of political representation in each area. Funding for many government programs, such as roads, citizen services, and parks, is based on census numbers. Businesses also rely on the numbers.

State officials say snowbirds should not fill out the census form at their temporary winter address. When they return to Minnesota, a form should be waiting for them. A census form is mailed to each address, and the forms are not forwarded by the post office. People who do not receive a census questionnaire, or who have questions about filling out the form, should call the nearest census office.

The Minnesota census offices are:
Coon Rapids: 612-494-4965
Duluth: 218-529-9460
Minneapolis: 612-334-4360
Hennepin West: 612-941-3427
Moorhead: 218-233-9413
Rochester: 507-292-1183
Shakopee: 612-445-4666
St. Paul: 651-290-4294

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