Our view: It’s not too early to focus on 2020 census

April 9, 2019

You might be wondering why, with the official 2020 U.S. census still a year away, Olmsted County officials are already calling attention to the count.

Aren’t they jumping the starting gun just a bit?

No, not at all.

One year out from the census is the appropriate time to start focusing on it, given all that is stake.

For starters, Minnesota is in real danger of losing a congressional seat due to shifting population patterns. While Minnesota’s population is growing at a healthy rate, some other states a growing faster and could earn an additional congressional seat, at our expense.

If that happens, Minnesotans lose not only clout in Congress, but each Congressperson will have to represent more people. Do the math: 5 million Minnesotans represented by eight members of Congress, as is now the case, as opposed to 5 million represented by seven members of Congress.

Now you understand why officials across the state, not just in Olmsted County, are pushing to make sure every single person in Minnesota is counted in the census.

The statewide campaign is known as “We Count.” “The ability to have a fair democracy is incumbent on every single person being counted,” said Gov. Tim Walz.

Getting every resident of the state counted is one of those rare issues that generates bipartisan support. Nobody wants to see the state lose influence in Washington.

Locally, the Olmsted County Complete Count Committee hopes to bang the drums for a complete count that will tally every single county resident.

There’s real money involved, of course. The county receives federal funding for many of the services it provides — an average of $1,500 per resident, according to Olmsted County Commissioner Sheila Kiscaden.

And since the count takes place only once every 10 years, the official tally will benefit or handicap the county for a full decade.

Historically, certain groups of citizens have been undercounted in the census. As a result, the Complete Count Committee is poised for a special effort to make sure renters, children, immigrants and low-income households are counted.

So, given the importance of the 2020 census both locally and statewide, we support the efforts of the Olmsted County Complete Count Committee to make all of us aware, not only that the count of residents is coming up, but also of the potential impact of that count.