Legislative Viewpoint: The Importance of the 2020 U.S. Census
- Written by Representative Paul Mark, 2nd Berkshire District, Chair-House Committee on Redistricting
- Published: November 7, 2019
The 2020 U.S. Census will be taking place soon, with the official “Census Day” of April 1, 2020 happening approximately five months from now. The Census is required under Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution which states that the actual enumeration must take place every ten years. The Constitution then specifies that the Census numbers will be the basis for the apportionment of Representatives in Congress. The number of Representatives in Congress also determines the number of Electoral Votes each state shall have in the presidential election.
As Chair of the House Committee on Redistricting I am putting a great deal of work into supporting efforts to make sure that a full, fair, and accurate Census count happens in Massachusetts. Census data is the foundation upon which our legislative districts at the State House of Representatives, State Senate, and U.S. House of Representatives are built. An accurate Census count ensures that we receive the political voice we are entitled to in both Boston and Washington. It is important that each of us is prepared to fill out the Census and to encourage our friends, family, and neighbors to do the same.
An accurate Census count ensures that we receive the political voice we are entitled to in both Boston and Washington.
The good news for Massachusetts is that population estimates suggest we should not lose a member of our U.S. Congressional Delegation this time around. We unfortunately did lose a Congressional seat during the 2010-2011 process. Population estimates show that Massachusetts is growing at approximately a 5% rate and has an estimated population just over 6,900,000 people. The bad news for those of us in Western Massachusetts is that much of that growth is concentrated in Boston and the surrounding communities. In Franklin County we are looking at an estimated 0.57% decline in population. If those numbers hold up it will mean larger legislative districts where elected officials are required to serve an increasing number of communities which makes the opportunities to visit with constituents that much more difficult. It is so important that we have a complete count to keep as much of our voice and political power intact as possible.
The Census is also the basis for the allocation of more than $675 billion in federal money and hundreds of state and federal programs that distribute funding, grants, and other supports to the states, counties, and municipalities. This money ends up being spent on roads, schools, public works projects, hospitals, and so many other important programs that people in our communities rely upon every single day. Filling out the Census fully and accurately helps ensure that we are receiving our fair share of the funds we all pay for and our communities deserve.
It is also important to know that filling out the Census is safe and confidential. Every piece of information that is collected by Census workers is protected under federal law. The Census is prohibited by law from sharing their data with any other federal or local agency, including law enforcement officials. Every Census Bureau employee takes an oath to protect the confidentiality of the data they collect. That oath is sworn for life and carries significant criminal penalties for any violations.
Thank you as always to The Good Life for the opportunity to contribute an article on timely issues. Should anyone have questions on the Redistricting process, the Census, or any other matter in state government, please contact my office at (413) 464-5635, representativemark.com, or visit our weekly office hours in Greenfield at the GCC Downtown Center on Mondays from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., Charlemont Town Hall Thursdays from 9 a.m. - noon, or Northfield Town Hall Thursdays from 1 - 4 p.m.