Everyone counts…

I made another quick trip to Michigan last week, toting another load of treasures we’re not quite ready to part with but don’t have the room for, to store in my ever-accommodating sister’s basement.

Per our usual way, Jeanne and I made the most of our short time together.  We did a little shopping, watched a couple of movies including an enlightening documentary on Halston.  Such talent, such exquisite clothes!

We went out for early cocktails and fried brie…

Then returned to my sister’s cozy home and made tasty caprese salads with fresh summer tomatoes and amazing basil from the plant out on her patio.

Jeanne is an active member the local League of Women Voters. The last evening of my visit we attended a presentation sponsored by the League.  Margaret Leary, Librarian Emerita from University of Michigan Law School spoke about the 2020 Census.  In the past, I thought the decennial census was simply keeping track of population. I was amazed that it is so much more. 

I didn’t realize the U.S. Constitution mandates that everyone in the country be counted every ten years starting with the first census in 1790.  The census results are used to reapportion the House of Representatives, determining how many seats each state gets.  State officials use census results to redraw the boundaries of the congressional and state legislative districts in their states to account of population shifts.

And it’s about the money. The distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funds, grants and support to states, counties and communities are based on the census data.  I had no idea the funding for crucial programs such as SNAP, WIC, Head Start and the Federal Pell Grant Program was allocated per the results of the census.

2020 is the first time you will be able to respond online, by mail or by phone.  By law, the responses to U.S. Census Bureau surveys are kept completely confidential.  There were questions and answers at the presentation about the double encryption of data which was way over my computer skill level, but it left me believing I would be safe answering online.  The law is very clear that the information collected by only be used for statistical purposes and no personal information may be shared.   All Census Bureau staff take a lifetime oath to protect that information and any violation comes with a penalty of up to $250,000 and/or up to five years in prison!

The evening left me with an altogether new perspective and respect for the census.  I look forward to performing my civic duty and instead of viewing it as one more thing to do, I will cheerfully participate and be happy to be counted!

C’est la vie.