I find it more than just a little appropriate that the official U.S. Census is designed to measure the nation's population on April 1st, a day otherwise known as April Fool's Day--but not for the reasons you might suspect. Quite simply, it is because we are FOOLS if we do not take the time to participate in this once a decade analysis, especially here in Michigan.
At stake for us are two critical issues; our fair share of about $400 billion of federal government funding and our representation in Congress. Many experts are predicting Michigan will lose one of its 15 seats in the U.S. House due to a drop in population caused by our tumultuous job market. That’s one reason why our participation is so critical. An undercount could possilby lead to the loss of two seats, which would be even more devastating to our state.
Census data provides the basis for federal and state redistricting; distribution of funds for government programs such as Medicaid; planning the right locations for schools, roads, and other public facilities; and identifying trends over time that can help predict future needs. Because the Constitution only calls for a nationwide count once every ten years, this is a very significant moment.
At the time of the last census in 2000, the U.S. population was determined to be 281,421,906. As of today, our current estimated population is 308,891,456. Clearly that is a significant jump.
Now let's contrast that with the population change in Michigan. In 2000, the census showed a Michigan population of 9,938,444, while our current estimated population is 9,969,727. That leaves us practically even over ten years, while the nation, and many other states have grown. We cannot afford to risk being undercounted.
One of the biggest threats to an inaccurately low count in Michigan is seasonal residents, commonly known as “snowbirds”, who take flight from the state during our colder months. It is vital that all of us work together to help get the word out. If someone has a permanent residence in Michigan, if Michigan is where they spend the largest portion of the year, then Michigan is where they need to be counted.
As to the form itself, it's even simpler than in previous years. It consists of ten primary questions and takes about 5 minutes to complete, maybe a few more for those with a large household. Aside from that, it's got a pre-addressed, postage-paid envelope right along with it.
A few minutes time and a trip to the local mailbox is all that stands between us and our fair share of representation and dollars in Washington. Let us not be foolish with the opportunity afforded us this April 1st.
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