Deadline for Census nears

Cameron Witbeck

Amanda Cook was only 12 when the last U.S. Census occurred. Ten years later, Cook, now a senior art and design major at NMU, filled out her own Census form, which she said was both exciting and intimidating.

“I felt like a responsible adult,” Cook said. “I actually was really excited. I felt like I was the head of the household for the first time and it reinforced my enthusiasm for living on my own.”

The Census occurs every 10 years and is mandated in Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. The Census allows the U.S. Government to access the distribution and volume of the American population. This in turn affects how many delegates each state is allowed in the U.S. House of Representatives and how more than $400 billion in federal resources is distributed annually.

April 1, or Census Day, marks the date that the Census forms should be sent in. Cook said that she felt rushed by the deadline but understood the reason for having one.

“I have a major tendency to procrastinate, especially when I have extra things to remember. On the other hand, if it wasn’t such a short deadline I’d probably forget entirely,” she said.

Kim Hunter, the media team leader for the Detroit Regional Census Center, said that the longer citizens take to send back the form, the more likely it is that Census Takers will not be able to process the form. Hunter said that the law that makes it necessary to fill out the form is not the most important motivation for doing so.

“The most powerful tool we have to entice residents to participate is the necessity to be civically engaged, to support our democracy,” he said. “Most opt to participate … to make the count as accurate as possible to bring the right resources to their respective communities.”

The Census not only helps allocate resources and delegates at the national level, but also helps distribution at the state, county, city and community levels.

“The Census is used to see that every community gets its fair share of more than $400 billion in federal funds distributed annually to support (things like) schools, hospitals, roads and fire and police personnel,” he said. “This is a once in a decade chance to help ensure your community gets the resources and political voice it deserves based on an accurate population count.”
Hunter said that there are many challenges facing this decade’s facilitation of the Census. These include registering the increasing number of recently homeless due to the economic crisis. Another concern that people have is whether their private information is protected. The Census Takers are sworn to protect the privacy of those who fill out the forms, said Hunter. They face fines of up to $250, 000 or five years in prison if they divulge private information.

“There are also the traditional barriers of folks with low income who feel disenfranchised and perhaps even apathetic about the census,” he said.

Cook said she expected that filling out the Census form would be both difficult and complicated. The current Census form consists of just 10 questions and takes approximately 10 minutes to fill out.

“I was surprised at how simple it was. I was worried that it would be a really tedious, laborious process but it was very easy,” she said.

Cook said that she had several motivations for completing the Census form.

“It sounds kind of corny, but it reminded me of learning about civic duties in high school. I think it’s a big part of living in America and being involved with your government,” Cook said. “And there was a note in the Census envelope that said it’s against the law not to participate. So that was enough to convince me.”

For more information on the Census visit www.2010census.gov.