We the People … All of Us

It’s never been more important for every Virginian and Marylander to take part in the national census that’s done every 10 years. By participating, you’ll ensure that your community receives its fair share of funding for vital services like schools, hospitals and roads.

March-April 2020

Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Executive Editor

Our Constitution is a thing of beauty: carefully thought-out, artfully written, aspirational yet practical. It’s as powerful and relevant today as when the Founding Fathers signed it in 1787, and when on March 9, 1789, it became the enduring design for a federal government operating within a union of states. And it survives today, 231 years later, healthy and strong, not as an ancient artifact of an agrarian age, but as a dynamic document in an age of complex machines.

The Founders wisely chose population — not wealth or land — as the basis for determining political power. In its very first article, the Constitution states that “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers … .”

So, to determine those “respective Numbers,” a census has been taken every 10 years since 1790. The intent of every census has been to count the entire population at the location where each person lives.

The 2020 census will ask questions of people in homes and group-living situations, including how many people live or stay in each home. The stated goal of the U.S. Census Bureau is “to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.”

Population totals — and breakdowns of those totals — determine the allocation of federal funds, grants and support to states, counties and communities. The financial impact can be huge on communities that are undercounted, especially on rural areas that may barely be maintaining, or even be losing, population.

A community benefits most when the census counts everyone in that community. When you respond to the census, you help your community receive its fair share of more than $675 billion per year in federal funds that are spent on schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs.

The financial impact of the census affects businesses as well. Businesses use census data to decide where to build factories, offices and stores, and this of course creates jobs. Local governments use the census for public safety and emergency preparedness.

As noted, the Constitution mandates a census every 10 years to accurately apportion the 435 members of the House of Representatives among the now-50 United States. This apportionment is the original legal purpose of the decennial census, as intended by the Founders, and ensures that your voice is heard, and your interests are fully and fairly represented in our nation’s capital. The apportionment results will be the first data published from the 2020 census and will determine the number of seats each state will have in the House of Representatives for the next 10 years.

Completing the census is mandatory to ensure that every community and every state are properly represented. It’s against the law for the Census Bureau to publicly release your responses in any way that could identify you or your household, and also by law, your responses cannot be used against you. They can only be used to produce statistics.

Most households will receive census information in mid-March. There’ll be several ways to take part in the 2020 census: by phone, mail, or for the first time, online.

In soaring yet succinct prose, its Preamble outlines the Constitution’s ambitious aims: “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity … .”

With its opening words, the Preamble also foreshadows why the Constitution mandates a census, as it declares, “We the People of the United States … .”

“We the People” means ALL the people. All of us.

And all of us starts with you.