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Point of View: In the 2020 Census, Be counted OKC

David Holt
David Holt

We humans like to count ourselves. This is nothing new. Even the story of Jesus’ birth is the story of a Roman census. Article I of our Constitution provides for a decennial census, and as each generation has pulled our republic closer to a democratic and equitable ideal, the census has taken on more and more meaning.

Today, the results of our census satisfy far more than intellectual curiosity. It is the foundation of our representative government and the spending that government undertakes.

Without a proper count, you and I may literally go unrepresented, and our city and state may not receive the funding necessary to meet the needs of our residents. That is why you will hear me and many others incessantly reminding you in the weeks and months ahead to be counted. It really is that important.

On average, a single person counted in a community will be worth $1,675 in federal funding sent to that community, each year of the decade. Federal spending touches so many aspects of daily life, and we’re all paying federal taxes. Why should our money be spent elsewhere? Similarly, state funding decisions are often based on population as well.

From the municipal level all the way up to Congress, we draw district boundaries based on the census. If one person represents more people at City Hall, the state Capitol or in the U.S. Capitol, that means that the census has failed to obtain an accurate count and one person’s vote counts more than another. We don’t want to be in that district with diluted representation.

Census data also guides the decisions of non-governmental actors. A grocery store or your favorite restaurant may choose to open in a certain area based on what the census is telling them about how many people live in the neighborhood.

For all these reasons, Be Counted OKC is our effort to make sure there’s an accurate census count in Oklahoma City. We’re working with partners across our community to reach out to people from demographic backgrounds that are historically undercounted, and we’re asking everyone to work together to make sure no one in OKC is left uncounted.

You can visit okc.gov/census for basic information about how the census works and what it’s used for. There’s also a tool kit with more info you can share.

This census is the first one you can fill out online, so it’s never been easier. Look for your census survey in the mail very soon and follow the instructions to make sure everyone in your household is counted.

Holt is mayor of Oklahoma City.

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