Residents across the nation will soon be asked to participate in the 2020 Census Complete Count. Oklahoma, however, contains many of the hardest to count Census tracts in the nation.
With only 72.6% of Carter County households mailing back their 2010 Census questionnaires, officials in the area are stressing the importance of filling out the information this coming year.
A 2020 Census Complete Count meeting is set at 9 a.m. today at the Carter County Health Department.
Rep. Tammy Townley, R-Ardmore, said the meeting will go over how Census data is used, why it’s important to be counted and a new change in the way individuals can submit forms. The 2020 Census is the first time the Census Bureau will be asking most households to submit the form online, she said.
“That is the major change in the census gathering. They did not do this 10 years ago,” Townley said. “Ten years ago was a paper census and then, of course, if you didn’t fill out the census then you got a visit from the census worker. Now, you will still get a visit from a census worker, but this year they are going to be doing it all online, or as much as they can get done online.”
Census Day is April 1, 2020, however, Oklahoma residents will be able to self-respond to the 2020 Census beginning in March, 2020 via internet, phone, the traditional paper census questionnaire or in person with a U.S. Census Bureau enumerator.
Townley said getting rural residents to participate can often be difficult. “You have those that do not want to answer the census questions, they don’t want to be counted because they don’t feel like it’s the government’s right to know,” she said.
However, an accurate assessment of the population and poverty levels in these areas is imperative for them to be accurately represented and have access to federal money for various public works projects, Townley said.
“I get that, I totally feel their pain, but unfortunately that also affects our federal dollars and that’s federal dollars for highway projects, county bridge projects, this is major money for us,” Townley said. “That’s why it’s so important to be counted.”
Distribution of federal dollars is often dependent on population size, meaning that more money for roads and bridges is allocated to urban areas rather than rural.
In addition, population size and poverty levels are key factors in helping nonprofits and public agencies target programs in the areas that need them most.
The American Association of Retired Persons , Southern Oklahoma Development Association and Big Five Public Transportation Services are just a few of the organizations that provide programs based on information from the Census, Townley said.
“I want to say some of our nutrition programs are based on this money too, so it’s a big deal,” Townley said.
Many individuals don’t realize that congressional lines are also contingent on population information gathered from the Census, Townley said. Congressional lines are drawn based on a certain number of constituents required in each house district, which is why the lines can sometimes look odd.
“Everybody wonders why my House District 48 goes around Lone Grove and I don’t have Dickson,” Townley said. “If you look on the map, House District 48 is weird. I mean, the way it’s drawn is weird because I don’t have Lone Grove, that’s a big deal. It goes around the city.”
Townley said Lone Grove was moved to House District 49 because Rep. Tommy Hardin, R-Madill, didn’t have a large enough population for the district.
Townley represents 10 different municipalities in her district. In comparison, Oklahoma City and Tulsa each have at least 20 representatives due to their large population size, Townley said.
“We want our rural areas to be as well represented as our urban areas, because a lot of times laws that are made, it’s not based on conservative versus liberal, a lot of times it’s urban versus rural and we have got to protect our rural areas,” Townley said.
To find out more about the 2020 Census, visit https://www.census.gov/en.html.
“I just hope that people, whenever they see the census information come their way, that they will take time to fill it out and get it in,” Townley said.