This Constitution Day, remember what counts

Today is Constitution Day, marking the day 232 years ago when the 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia formally adopted the United States Constitution as the supreme law of the land.

Among the primary duties assigned to the federal government by Section II of Article 1 of the Constitution is to conduct an “actual Enumeration” of the population “within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years” for the purpose of apportioning representation and taxes. Originally, only free individuals were counted as full persons for the purposes of the Census. “Indians not taxed” were excluded entirely, while enslaved individuals were counted as three-fifths of a person. It took until 1860 for Indians to be included in the Census and passage of the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery in 1865 for the three-fifth provision to be rendered obsolete.

A national Census has been conducted every ten years since 1790. The next decennial Census will take place in 2020 and preparations are well underway for the big event.

A lot rides on a full and accurate Census. These numbers determine the apportionment of congressional seats, the drawing of legislative and congressional districts, and the allocation of billions of dollars of federal funds. Communities count on census data to plan for residents’ needs, including housing, schools, roads, and emergency services, while businesses use the data to decide where to make investments and open stores.

The upcoming Census was embroiled in controversy over the Trump administration’s efforts to add a question inquiring into residents’ citizenship status, which was widely expected to discourage participation by non-citizen populations. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled against the inclusion of a citizenship question and the question will not appear on the 2020 Census. Federal law forbids the Census Bureau from sharing personally identifiable information with other parts of the government.

Beginning in March 2020, the public can begin completing the Census online at 2020census.gov, by mail or by phone, leading up to National Census Day on April 1st. Throughout June and July, census takers will go door to door to count people who have not yet responded to the 2020 Census. Population data from the Census will be released by December 31, 2020 to allow for Congressional seats to be apportioned and for states to begin drawing new legislative and congressional maps; full Census data will be available in 2021.

There are many efforts underway in Oklahoma to ensure a complete Census count in 2020. Governor Stitt recently hosted a kickoff event for Oklahoma’s statewide Complete Count Committee, an effort involving state, tribal, and local governments, and many community partners working together to spread awareness about the census. Many cities have created local Complete Count Committees, while the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is heading the Count Me In coalition, alongside municipal and county governments, the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits, and OK Policy.

The Census Bureau is continuing to reach out to community organizations to partner in efforts to spread awareness of Census 2020 and encourage full participation. Community organizations are encouraged to sign up to become official Census partners. You can stay up-to-date with Census Bureau news by following @uscensusbureau and sharing content through social media channels.

Over 230 years ago, the authors of the American constitution understood the importance of the Census. The Census is no less important today.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Blatt helped found OK Policy in 2008 and became the organization's Executive Director in 2010. David previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers. He lives in Tulsa with his wife, Patty Hipsher, a special education teacher in Broken Arrow, and their son, Noah.

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