People all across the country noticed something new on TV during the Super Bowl a new ad campaign like no other. Approximately $133 million of the taxpayers’ money is now being used for a national ad campaign to promote the census. But for many Americans this raises the following question: Why should we care?
The census has more of a bearing on the future of the country than many Americans would care to imagine. The results of the census not only determine how many representatives a state receives in the House of Representatives, but also influence how and where congressional districts are laid out. In addition, the census results decide the votes assigned to states in the Electoral College and the percentage of funds they receive from federal spending projects.
The most alarming aspect of the census, however, is that these distributions will bear no correlation to the number of United States citizens. The current census attempts to count every person in America regardless of citizenship. The census does not require respondents to declare whether or not they are legal citizens. As a result, the illegal population can completely alter results in some regions of the country.
This means that states like California and Texas will receive both extra representation in Congress and extra Electoral College votes due to the large number of illegal immigrants within their borders. Not only does this not make sense, it unfairly take votes away from other states. On the same token, some cities with extreme poverty where government funds are most needed are undercounted by the census and thus miss out on valuable opportunities.
It is ironic that people who are here illegally, and therefore should have no access to government-run programs nor have a say in government, can have such a large effect on our country’s political process. It is especially troubling that the current onslaught of advertising is aimed at communities most likely to have illegal aliens. If the census is implemented according to plan, it will have by far the highest ever response from illegal aliens.
In addition to the pure representative problems that result from faulty data collection, money is a significant concern with this census. On top of the huge budgetary allowance that was already allotted to the census, the Obama administration gave an extra $1 billion of stimulus money to the Census Bureau. This money could be spent elsewhere far more productively.
The results of the census will also affect the money local communities receive. Census data will be used to allocate federal funds worth more than $400 billion. ‘Every grant you apply for uses the statistics from the census,” said Robert Bowser, mayor of East Orange, N.J., and vice chairman of a U.S. Conference of Mayors census panel. ‘If it’s not done properly … it’s a major problem.” As this quote illustrates, the census actually matters.
One final concern with the current census is its injection of politics into what should be a non-partisan process. The Census Bureau has enlisted the help of thousands of Americans in order to get a ‘complete and accurate” result. Many of these volunteers, however, are coming from the long list of people that actively worked on Obama’s campaign. Originally, this included the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, until controversy made it more of a liability than an asset. As thousands of volunteers gather information all over the country, we have reason to be concerned that political bias may affect the data they collect.
With these issues in mind, we can only hope that the census provides the accurate and unbiased count of our nation’s population that the framers of the Constitution intended. The problems we are seeing must be corrected in future years. For now, fill out your census accurately and hope for the best.
Rogers is a member of
the class of 2012.