By Dennis Washington
The director of the U.S. Census Bureau traveled to Alabama last week to urge everyone living in the state to participate in next year’s census.
Gov. Kay Ivey and Alabama Congressman Robert Aderholt invited U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham to Cullman to talk about Alabama Counts, the state’s action plan to accurately count the number of people living in Alabama next year. Gov. Kay Ivey said her goal is to get 80 percent participation which, if achieved, would be a record high.
Why all of the added emphasis?
“If we turn out at the rate we did in 2000, we will lose two congressional seats,” Ivey said. “If we turn out at the rate we did in 2010, we will lose one.”
Census information also determines the amount of money the state receives from the federal government to pave interstates, support Medicare and fund other programs in the state.
“The results are real important,” Ivey said. “It determines how many congress people we will have representing our voice in Washington and it also represents a high amount of dollars we will lose if we lose representation.”
In other words, getting counted counts.
“So much is dependent on the census,” Aderholt added. “If we want Alabama to grow and prosper economically, we need people to fill out the census.”
The 2020 Census will, for the first time, allow citizens to use the internet to report their household information. Dillingham said the agency is going to great lengths to make sure all the data is safe and anonymous.
“Everyone in America should be willing to give that information and know that it’s secure,” Dillingham said. “It will not — in any way, be shared with others, not with law enforcement or anyone else.”
Dillingham said the agency will be adding “digital noise” to data reports to prevent anyone from being able to link responses to specific people.
“The agency has employed dozens of people to make sure the data cannot be merged with other public data from other federal, state and local agencies to connect people with specific responses,” Dillingham said.
Dillingham said his agency is currently sending out workers to knock on doors and verify mailing addresses. He said the agency is also using technology, such as satellite imagery, to help workers determine if houses are still standing in areas where they were in 2010.
“The rural areas are of special interest to us,” Dillingham said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure that we reach everyone. Sometimes it’s a farmer’s market or any kind of location where people gather. You can have someone there with a laptop encouraging people to answer the census.”
By April 2020, households will receive an invitation to participate in the census count, which will officially begin on April 1, 2020, also known as “Census Day.” When completing the census, you will note where you are living on April 1.
“We want people to understand that filling out the census form is easy, simple and safe,” Aderholt said. “Alabama can either gain a lot or lose a lot depending on who answers the census questions.”
To learn more about the 2020 Census, visit 2020Census.gov. To learn more about Alabama’s action plan to count as many people as possible in the census, visit census.alabama.gov.
The story originally appeared on alabamanewscenter.com.