As a second-semester freshman at Ole Miss in 1970, I earned a few hundred dollars working as a part-time census taker. My job was to count every male student on campus that spring – approximately 3,500 young men. The job proved more extensive and time-consuming than I had expected, and I can say I earned every penny of that paycheck.
This year, census takers are making the rounds once again as our country conducts the census required every 10 years by our Constitution. Techniques are different now, making it much easier to participate. In addition to answering door-to-door surveys, residents can complete the census online and over the phone. In fact, 88 percent of respondents this year have chosen the online option.
The Sept. 30 deadline to complete the census is fast approaching, but unfortunately, our state is lagging well behind the national response rate. I would ask every Mississippian to make sure they have completed the census before time runs out. This is a civic obligation just like voting or performing jury duty.
There are several common excuses for sitting out the census, but none of them hold up to scrutiny. Here are a few examples followed by the facts.
EXCUSE: The census will violate personal privacy.
FACT: Federal law requires the government to keep this information confidential, and every census worker takes an oath to protect respondents’ personal information under penalty of fines and imprisonment. In addition, census workers will never ask for a Social Security number or donation.
EXCUSE: The census takers at the door could be fraudulent.
FACT: All census field workers can be identified by badges that contain their name, their photograph, a Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date.
EXCUSE: One absence will not make a real difference.
FACT: Given all that is at stake in the census, every household makes a difference.
The census determines Mississippi’s political representation in Congress and the Electoral College, the amount of federal dollars our communities receive for roads, hospitals, and schools, and even relief money for COVID-19 and natural disasters like hurricanes and floods. We need a strong head count to make sure our state is accurately represented.
EXCUSE: Those without internet cannot participate.
FACT: There are other options. Residents can complete the survey over the phone by calling 844-330-2020. In addition, every household should have received a mail survey this spring with a return envelope included. It is still not too late to mail this in.
EXCUSE: The new census deadline will lead to an inaccurate count.
FACT: Last month, the Census Bureau made the decision to move up the census deadline from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30. Many Americans have expressed concern that this will lead to an incomplete count. Census Bureau officials have reassured my office that they expect to meet the new deadline, thanks to a boost in manpower and expanded work hours.
Every completed survey makes a difference for our state. As we near the census deadline, I urge all Mississippi residents to participate to help maximize our representation, access to federal funding and economic growth.
Roger Wicker is in his second term in the U.S. Senate.