I hope everyone has already filled out their Census questionnaire and mailed it back. This is such an important duty for us as citizens. Getting a head count of every citizen in the country is something that is required under the Constitution.
You may be thinking what’s so important about knowing Tulsa’s, the state’s or the country’s exact population. First of all, it determines how many U.S. Representatives a state has in Congress. States can actually gain or lose congressional seats depending changes in population. For example, even though Oklahoma’s population had grown slightly in the 2000 census, it didn’t grow as fast as other states, and as a result, we wound up losing a congressional seat in Washington D.C. That means we have one less voice in Congress than we did before.
Those same population figures are used by the federal government to determine how to distribute more than $400 BILLION in federal funds to tribal, state and local governments each year and to make decisions about what community services to provide. That’s funding for roads, schools, public safety, hospitals and many other important public services. We need to make sure that Oklahoma gets its fair share of funding, and we can do that by making sure that every Oklahoman sends in their questionnaire.
Finally, the data is also used to determine boundaries for state and local legislative districts as well as congressional districts. Important decisions that impact all of our communities are made based on the federal census—that’s why it is so important for everyone in our state to be counted.
Under law, the government has to visit any household that doesn’t send in its forms. Each household visit costs taxpayers around $57. If every household across the nation mailed back its completed form, taxpayers could reduce the cost of administering the census by around $1.5 billion. Just think of how that money could help our country in other ways?
I know there has been some controversy over the term “negro” on the Census form, but please forget about the term and focus on the importance of the Census, fill it out and mail it in. The questionnaire is vitally important in determining how much funding our community will get, which we desperately need. I hope you and your family will fill out your form as soon as possible, and encourage your family, friends and neighbors to do the same.
If you haven’t received your ten question Census form in the U.S. Postal Service by Monday, April 12, please contact the Census Bureau hotline at 1-800-923-8282 during normal business hours to have them mail you one. If you don’t fill out your form, a Census representative will visit your home sometime between May and July. Again, getting your household’s headcount is required under law.
So far, Americans are responding well to the Census. In the 2000 Census, we had a 72 percent mail-back participation rate. This year, 63 percent of households have already responded so hopefully we can top the last Census participation rate.