Next April the decennial ritual and Constitutional requirement to count every man, woman and child living in the United States — the 2020 census — kicks off with National Census Day. That day, April 1, coincidentally, is also known colloquially as April Fool’s Day. But no one should be fooled or tricked out of participating; the census is something in which all are required to participate, by law.
It should be celebrated as an opportunity to find out how much our population has grown in the past 10 years and where we all live. There are projections that say we will surpass 333 million people, which would be about an 8% growth over the nearly 309 million head count that was taken in 2010. Interestingly, the growth rate from 2000 to 2010 was 9.7%. If the current projections are accurate, it appears population growth slowed slightly over the last 10 years.
Locally, the 2020 census is expected to show that Charles County is, or already has, made a noteworthy change: The county is expected to be majority African American for the first time, which would also make it the wealthiest majority black jurisdiction in the country, pushing neighboring Prince George’s County into the No. 2 slot on that metric. But much like nearly everything else in these days of tribal politics, the battle lines have been drawn for the upcoming census.
The political fight started at the top with President Donald Trump and his administration fighting to put a citizenship question on the ballot. A needless exercise aimed more at creating division and animus than revealing anything important. And after a protracted battle in the public realm as well as in the courts, Trump ultimately backed down and decided he could ensure a more accurate count of non-citizens through other means — mining the loads of data collected by various federal agencies.
Just recently, Democratic members of our own congressional delegation thought it necessary to prod the Republican governor of this state over whether federal money dispensed for the purpose of ensuring an accurate count was or is being spent completely. In a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan, published on this page Oct. 9 — “It’s critical every Marylander is counted in 2020 census” — House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer and Sen. Ben Cardin wrote, “We are deeply concerned that the State has not provided adequate guidance and support to the jurisdictions.”
There doesn’t seem to be any reason to think the Republican governor is trying to slow-roll the census, though that’s what our Democratic leaders seem to imply. That or they’re implying Hogan is incompetent. And there’s simply no evidence of that.
Back on April 1 when the 2020 Maryland Complete Count Committee held its first meeting, Hogan said, “A complete and accurate count of Maryland’s population is essential to the state.” That sounds like a knows what’s at stake.
Hoyer and Cardin ably point out just what that is in their letter, the amount of federal money flowing to the state for many programs is dictated by the population count. It seems he and they are on the same page.
So, we ask our elected leaders to ramp down the rhetoric and leave the politicking to the campaign trail — and leave the counting to the U.S. Census Bureau, its hordes of field workers and the many local and state organizations looking to assist who will no doubt work to ensure the most complete count possible.
Remember, like other Constitutional provisions, the census should be celebrated and respected, not looked at as yet another ideological battle of wills.
And don’t be a fool, get counted — it’s the law.