After 10 years its now time for the United States to conduct its decennial census.
But unlike the previous 22 surveys, census officials are striving to gain an accurate count of minorities and immigrants through multiple channels in 2010. Historically minorities and more recently illegal immigrants have been undercounted in the Census for reasons stemming from either the lack of knowledge about the survey, or general disdain for the government.
However, steps have been taken by the Census Bureau to ensure that all minorities are accounted for. For example, the 2010 questionnaire will only consist of 10 questions, compared to 53 in 2000. In New England, the Regional Census Bureau held dialogue with media outlets that cater to minorities, to get the word out about the importance of the census through advertising. Unlike the last survey in 2000, the bureau will also offer a bilingual questionnaire. But the task of increasing minority participation in the census does not belong to the government alone, since all Americans are obligated by law to participate.
Hyphenated Americans must take advantage of this opportunity to have a stake in American political process, and reap the benefits of being counted. Held every 10 years beginning in 1790, the U.S. Census is used to determine how the 435 electorate votes will be distributed among the states. Depending on whether its population has increased or decreased, a state may lose or gain votes. Along with representation, the survey also helps determine where schools, hospitals, and other public facilities will be built according to need for local purposes.
By not participating, electorate districts with large concentrations of minorities are subjected to a miniscule role in how their tax dollars are used. In 1995, the Clinton Administration filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to review how the method of a manual headcount via the mailed questionnaire would leave minorities uncounted.
The 1990 Census was used as evidence. That year, an estimated 5 million people, the majority of which were blacks and Hispanics went uncounted. The Clinton administration suggested that a statistical sample of minority households be taken to determine the actual number of individuals that were overlooked. However, the Supreme Court voted not to readjust the census on the grounds that minorities are not entitled to a special method of counting. Unless minorities begin to actively participate in the political process, we can expect to be disenfranchised for years to come. So as you check your mailbox next year, be sure to fill out that ‘other’ questionnaire that will essentially determine your voice in this country.
Jason Lawrence is a junior political science student. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.