Today I’d like to talk about the importance of participating in the U.S. Census and about the ways we are already preparing for Census Day, which is April 1, 2020.
Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau surveys the United States to determine the nation’s population. Our founders created the census in order to allocate political power based on population rather than wealth. At the first census, taken in 1790 during George Washington’s second year as president, we had thirteen states and four states in waiting. Thomas Jefferson, who was secretary of state then, oversaw the census, which was limited to six questions.
Our population determines how many of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives go to Arkansas. The history of the U.S. population shifts is interesting. In 1910, when there were 394 seats in the House and the population of Arkansas was 1.5 million, we held seven seats. In 1950, when our population was 1.9 million, we lost one representative. In 1960, when our population had slipped to 1.8 million, we lost two more representatives. For the last four decades, we have remained steady with four representatives.
But now, we are growing again. In 2017, the population of Arkansas topped 3 million for the first time. The Census Bureau last reported our population at 3,013,825. This history emphasizes the importance of an accurate census.
This week, I announced the formation of the Arkansas Complete Count Committee. The task of the 30 members on the committee who have agreed to serve is to promote statewide participation in the 2020 Census. I selected members of the committee from state agencies, the legislature, local government, and the business community.
An accurate count of our population is critical. The federal government allocates funding back to the states based upon population counts. An undercount of even 1 percent, or just 30,000 people, could cost Arkansas $990 million over the next decade.
Participation will be easier than ever. You can respond on your personal computer, your smartphone, or your tablet. If you prefer, you may respond the old-fashioned way by submitting your answers on the paper questionnaire and sending it back via regular mail. Whichever way you choose to participate, please do.
We’re counting on every Arkansan to participate, because when it comes to the census, every Arkansan counts.