We don’t need to provide excuses for not filling out your census form. We’ve heard them all already. They are bad reasons and, what’s more, they are hurtful. Every census form that doesn’t get filled out could mean dollars lost and clout unrealized, a road project deferred and economic development plan set aside.
We don’t need to provide excuses for not filling out your census form. We’ve heard them all already — or as many as we care to hear:
They won’t respect my privacy.
The results aren’t accurate anyway.
I’m too busy.
Those are bad reasons and, what’s more, they are hurtful. Every census form that doesn’t get filled out could mean dollars lost and clout unrealized, a road project deferred and economic development plan set aside.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the nation’s population must be fully counted every 10 years. Most people know that, but too many don’t know that they, too, are mandated to participate in the count.
Under law, you must fill out your census form. Still, a poll released last month by the Pew Research Center showed that not even one-third of the public knew their participation was legally required.
The requirement exists because the count is vitally important. The census is used to determine federal and state funding, to draw boundaries of legislative districts, and to figure out how many seats a state will have in the House of Representatives and state legislatures.
As the Census Bureau points out on its Web site at 2010.census.gov, more than $400 billion in federal funds are doled out to communities based on what’s learned in the count. So your community might miss out on getting a new senior center, having a bridge repaired or a new roof for the neighborhood elementary school based on your — now, come on, let’s just say it — laziness.
The census won’t take much of your time. The Census Bureau bills it as “one of the shortest forms in history — 10 questions in 10 minutes.” The questions primarily cover how many live people in the residence, whether it is owned or rented, and what is the gender, race and age of the occupants.
We’re pretty sure we’ve given hotels.com more information to get a discount on a room. We certainly have given more information to our friends on Facebook.
And, might we add, the federal government has a pretty extensive book on you already. The IRS has your last 1040 form. Medicare has not only your name, address, gender and age but the last time you saw a doctor and what you were treated for.
When it comes to the census, at least three federal laws protect the confidentiality of your information and prohibit anyone from sharing it. A census worker who violates the oath of nondisclosure — an oath for life — is subject to a fine of up to $250,000 or a prison sentence as long as five years, or both.
There is no question about your legal status or Social Security number.
The census cannot be any more clear on its Web site: “We use your information to produce statistics. Your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court.”
Here’s the drill: Census forms will be sent out beginning in mid-March, with a prepaid envelope so you can mail yours back promptly. In case you set it aside and forget, the census has designated April 1 as National Census Day.
If you return the form, that’s the end of story. If you don’t, a census worker will have to knock on your door and ask you the questions in person. The census sets aside April-July for these visits.
What a pain, for everyone. And it increases the chance mistakes might be made in the gathering of information. It’s hypocritical to criticize the census for less-than-perfect accuracy, and then be harder to find than Waldo when your form turns up missing.
If you don’t get a form, there’s an easy solution. The Census Bureau will set up Be Counted Centers in the area to provide assistance.
We like the perspective of state Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Pecatonica. “I think if you look at civic duty and civic responsibility, this is one of the most basic ones there is,” he told the Rockford Register Star’s Mike Wiser.
Sharpen your pencils. A little lead is worth its weight in gold for your community.
Rockford Register Star