Oklahoma, it’s time to stand up and be counted!
Every ten years, the federal government conducts an official census to count our population. It’s something our Founding Fathers required in the U.S. Constitution, so that population was the basis of sharing political power. Representation in Congress was tied to those population counts.
That’s still true today—in fact following the 2000 census count, Oklahoma went from six seats in Congress to just five based on our census results. We didn’t lose population compared to the census from 1990, but our population didn’t grow as fast as other states. The census is the basis for determining how many seats states have in Congress. But the census results impact much more than that.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than $675 billion in federal funds is spent annually on schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other essential programs. When citizens respond to the census, it ensures their hometown will get the funding it’s entitled to receive. When people don’t respond, it means populations are not fully counted, and their towns, counties and state miss out on important funding.
At a recent interim study held here in the Senate, we learned that less than 76 percent of Oklahoma households mailed back their 2010 census questionnaire. Consider the fact that every person not counted in the census costs the state approximately $1,800 per year in lost federal funding for ten years. An undercount of just two percent could cost the state up to $1.8 billion over a decade. That’s huge.
Census data is also used when the Oklahoma determines boundaries for our state’s House and Senate districts, so it directly impacts representation at the State Capitol.
Furthermore, businesses use census data when determining whether to locate or expand in a particular area, bringing more jobs and positively impacting local economies. For all these reasons, getting an accurate census count is vital to Oklahoma.
The U.S. Census Bureau will begin mailing out postcards this coming March telling citizens how, for the first time ever, they can respond to the census online. Nonprofit organizations will also be partnering with local libraries and other entities to ensure those without internet or who only have dial up can take advantage of this or other options for completing their census questionnaire.
Once citizens respond to the census, they’ll receive no further correspondence. If they don’t respond, another reminder postcard will be sent out between August and September of next year. There may be additional follow-up with an in-person visit from a census taker.
I also want to point out that applications are now being accepted for both full and part-time census workers. Applications can be found at 2020census.gov/jobs or call 1-855-JOB-2020.
I was very honored when Governor Kevin Stitt asked me to serve on his census count committee, and I look forward to working with my fellow members to help ensure Oklahomans are fully counted for the 2020 census. Our future depends on it.
Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to be your voice in the Oklahoma Senate. Please feel free to contact my Capitol office with any questions or concerns you may have about legislation or other issues impacting our state at 405.521.5628 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.