The census produces federal funds for Florida and increased representation in Congress. In short, it means power and money for America’s third-largest state. But Florida’s power and money will be diminished if there is an undercount of Floridians in the 2020 census.

Florida’s health care, education, transportation and environment could all be hurt if our state doesn’t receive federal funds that reflect our growing population.

And how fast are we growing as a state?

Florida’s population grew by more than 322,000 residents from July 2017 to July 2018, reported Watchdog.org. That’s like adding a new small city to our state every year. But will all of these people be counted in the 2020 census?

California is working to make sure that all of its people are counted in the 2020 census, budgeting $100 million for the project. In contrast Florida is doing next to nothing: a bill to support a thorough and accurate count died in the Florida Legislature.

Our state leaders should be following the lead of former Gov. Charlie Crist, who is now a Florida congressman: as governor, Crist set up a 45-member committee to ensure there was an accurate count of Floridians for the 2010 census.

 

Reasons for concern

Clearly fear is one factor that may prevent Florida from having an accurate census count.

People may be afraid that census information is not confidential, though by law it is. People may fear that filling out a census form may be time-consuming, though in fact there are just seven questions.

And a proposed 2020 census question about citizenship has raised fears and court challenges alike, even though it has been asked in the past on the short census form until 1950 (and then asked in subsets of residents since then).

The Constitution specifies that congressional districts should be based on how many people live in an area; there is no mention of citizens. In addition, there are millions of people in the U.S. who are here legally but are not citizens.

The census will not ask for Social Security numbers, money, donations, passwords, credit card information or other financial information, so be careful about scam artists.

For the first time the 2020 census will depend on a website as a primary means of response, reported the Sarasota Herald-Tribune; next spring residents will receive a mailed notice with their personal code to use for answering the census questions.

A second means of response will be a toll-free number where a census worker will help.

A mailed questionnaire can be requested by calling a toll-free number that has not been announced.

If a household hasn’t responded by April 1, 2020, a census worker will come knocking.

But before things even get that far, Florida’s leaders should take strong action to ensure that the census accurately counts everyone in this state.

 

This editorial originally appeared in the (Jacksonville) Florida-times Union.