Time is running out to be counted in 2020 Census

Tracy Estes

If we were playing college football, I am confident the results would be different. If only Auburn were competing directly with Georgia or Alabama was at the line of scrimmage squaring off against USC, the scoreboard would read in our favor. But such is not the case.

The State of Alabama is losing--and losing quite badly, as if our state were one of the perennial cupcakes found on the schedule for Southeastern Conference teams in the fall.

If this were football, we would all be embarrassed, but this is much more important than football. This concerns our overall quality of life in terms of our collective voice in Washington, D.C., and our federal tax dollars being directed back home to Alabama.

If only this were college football, our citizens might show more interest and our state would win. Unfortunately, this is not football and our state is destined to lose and lose badly as the waning seconds tick from the clock.

The deadline to respond to the census is Sept. 30 and a substantial portion of our state has failed to take the five minutes necessary to answer a few basic questions.

The questions are not intrusive. There are no questions regarding a person’s finances, retirement income or a list of personal assets. There is no request to list bank account numbers or the amount of money one made at work or even in a small side job.

In essence, the federal government needs to know how many people live in your home--nothing more, nothing less.

Some communities in our state have a participation rate higher than 80%. But not across the vast majority of Alabama. Believe it or not, there are some communities where the response rate has been less than 25%. At least one community in House District 17 has a rate below 50%. A few have participation rates higher than 60%, but even those numbers are well below the state and national average.

And while I have written in our local newspapers, discussed the issue on local radio stations, prompted on social media and offered words of encouragement at various county commission and city council meetings across the district as to the importance of responding to the Census, allow me to offer a quick refresher for those who might not have heard.

First and foremost, the State of Alabama could lose one of its seven seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. From the inception of our nation, there have been 435 seats in the House. This number never changes with the distribution of seats shifted each decade based on population trends. In other words, as the American population shifts from one area of the country to another, the seats are then allocated accordingly. Those states where population growth is more pronounced gain seats while states where population is either declining or not growing at the rate seen in other states lose seats. That is the threat now facing Alabama. This reality now seems all but guaranteed, unless we act collectively and quickly.

While we have experienced population growth since the 2010 Census, our growth has not maintained pace with many other states. Should our response rate to the census fall below that of others, we will lose at least one seat in the House. Understand that the disparity between our growth rate and that being experienced in other states is only exacerbated as our response to the census has been low, thereby not fully reflecting a complete picture of our actual population.
A related threat to losing a seat in Congress is the impact this population shift could have on the election of our president. States are assigned electoral votes within the Electoral College based on the number of congressional members. Alabama currently has nine based on the fact our state has two senators and seven House members. Remember, each state has two senators with the number of representatives being based on the state’s total population.

Most can recall watching the presidential election returns come in, as national broadcasters break down the results and who appears to be moving toward winning the presidency. Viewers can see the large national map on the television screen with each state’s number of electoral votes shown as the vote totals come in and the electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who wins each respective state. Most states award all of their respective electoral votes to the winning candidate while a few still break down the number of electoral votes proportionate to the percentage of votes earned within the state by the candidates.

In short, if the number of electoral votes held by our state declines, Alabama will carry even less weight in the presidential election process. Such would result in even fewer campaign stops in our state by those seeking the nation’s highest office. Naturally, we want our state to carry more weight in the election process, not less.

And finally, it’s all about the money. As with so many things in life, money dictates. And the census process is not exempt to this analogy.

Billions in federal dollars are directed to states, counties and municipalities based on population figures. And if these local communities are not participating in the census, how can one expect the government to know how many live in our area and the amount of federal funding needed? None of us have a right to complain about federal funding for projects in our area, if we do not take the time to complete the census.

With all of this critical information in mind, I humbly ask each of you to respond to the census and encourage your family, neighbors and friends to do the same.

Here is how you can. Complete the form on the internet by visiting the official website at census2020.gov or by telephone at (844) 330-2020.

For the sake of Alabama, pretend your favorite college football team is competing against a traditional football power from another state and your help is needed in determining the outcome.

I know of many in our district who would jump at the chance to help their favorite college team secure an important victory. Why not be willing to do the same for your state? The clock is ticking and the State of Alabama needs your help.

Tracy Estes is Alabama State House District 17’s freshman state representative from Winfield.

See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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