Census aims to count everyone

Published 10:31 am Saturday, August 29, 2009

FRANKLIN—The 2010 census is fast approaching. In an effort to make sure that everyone is counted, the Franklin City Council approved a proclamation to partner with the U.S. Census Bureau.

“This is serious business and we want people to know and understand that collecting census data shapes and helps their communities,” said Dr. Patricia Knight, a census bureau representative.

The census bureau and local officials are encouraging everyone to participate, especially now, when governments at all levels are strapped for cash. Census data determines how much money cities and counties will receive for everything from schools to hospitals to infrastructure. It also determines legislative and voting districts.

“Census data touches all of our lives in one way or another,” Knight told the City Council at Monday night’s meeting. “We want to make sure that we count as many people in Franklin as we can so we can get the appropriate amount of funds coming back into the community.”

According to data from the 2000 census, about 65 percent of the households in Franklin responded to the census form. That’s compared with 67 percent in Southampton County and 75 percent in Isle of Wight County. The state average was 72 percent.

“We want to increase our mail back response rate,” Knight said. A higher response rate means less money and resources will have to be spent going door-to-door collecting information.

In March 2010, the census bureau will mail out 10-question census forms to every household in the United States. By December 2010, population counts must be provided to the president for apportionment of congressional seats.

“The form is very easy and we want everyone to participate,” Knight said. She also noted that the form doesn’t ask for citizenship status or require a social security number.

Councilman Barry Cheatham asked Knight why non-citizens were counted for the purpose of representation.

“Everyone uses roads and transportation, hospitals and community centers, so its important to count everyone because of the money that goes back into our communities to maintain those roads to increase services in the community,” Knight said.

Knight said that census workers are forbidden from sharing any personal information collected during the census, and can face a hefty fine and even jail time if they’re convicted of doing so.

City Manager June Fleming said that the city is working to help publicize the census to residents.

“We’ve done everything that we can to be of assistance and I know that we are going to have a great working relationship,” she said.

Knight said that partnerships, like the one with the city of Franklin, are especially important to gather information from certain hard to reach groups: black males between the ages of 18 and 40, Latinos, Asians, senior citizens, people with limited reading and writing abilities and non-English speaking people.

“We need help in reaching those communities,” she said.

The census is mandated by the Constitution, and has been conducted every 10 years since 1790.