- By Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson
With so much uncertainty surrounding our country, one constant is the need for adequate federal funding and representation in Washington, D.C. Our founding fathers knew the importance of accurate representation in congress and implemented the census as a way to proportionally distribute federal funds and congressional seats. The census process is a staple of American government that continues to be an important mandate for our nation’s functionality.
Information collected from the census is beneficial to both local governments and the private sector. Institutions across the country, including cities and municipalities, small businesses, and nonprofits often rely on census results to outline where services are most needed and to promote economic development. We all can do our part to better our state by participating in the 2020 Census.
Completing the census takes less time than ever before. By answering 10 questions about your household taking no more than 10 minutes, you can help positively impact our state for the next 10 years. The best part is you can now complete this process while social distancing in the comfort of your own home. Fill out your census online at 2020census.gov, over the phone by calling (844) 330-2020, or through the mail.
As I promote the census across the state, I continue to hear a number of fears and misconceptions regarding the process. Mississippians should know a legitimate census form or census taker will never ask for your social security number, banking information, donations, or anything on behalf of a political party. I’ve also heard concerns about confidentiality. Not only are you kept anonymous, please know your data is used for statistical purposes only, and your responses cannot be shared for a minimum of 70 years.
Similar to an election, the census can only accurately serve those who participate. In 2000, our state lost a congressional seat (MS-5) due to low census participation. Since then, we only send four Representatives to Washington each term, resulting in one less person to speak for Mississippi. In the 2010 census, more than 265,000 Mississippians went uncounted. If this happens again, we could lose billions of dollars in federal funding for our state. Simply put: the more accurate Mississippi’s count, the more financial resources and representation Mississippians will receive, thus positively impacting your community and your household for the next decade.
Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, grassroots efforts to ensure an accurate census count are now on hold. As I write this, we are currently one of the top ten states in terms of the percentage of voluntary responses. I am calling on you to keep up the good work and help ensure a complete and accurate count for Mississippi. Encourage your friends, family members, and neighbors to participate in this vital process, and don’t forget to reach out to those around you who may need help submitting responses. The census is more than just a headcount; it’s an opportunity to move Mississippi forward.