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EYE ON ILLINOIS: Time running out on getting every resident counted

Three weeks.

That’s the amount of time left for Illinoisans to be counted in the 2020 Census. Data collection ends Sept. 30, and predictably officials are worried.

At a conference Thursday to boost the case, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Illinois was sixth among states in terms of response rate, but said many communities are between 30% and 50% counted.

“These areas include some of our most marginalized and hard-to-count communities,” he later tweeted. “Places like the Austin and Little Village neighborhoods in Chicago, Dixmoor and Harvey in suburban Cook County, and parts of the Metro East and Central and Southern Illinois.”

I filled out my form online shortly after the window opened several months ago, and have seen Census workers patrolling the neighborhood. I tend to think the bureaucratic hand-wringing is overblown, but an email from Chicagoan Bill McGraw, who regularly visits rural relatives, caught my eye:

“I wonder out loud about the (newspaper) tackling the census issue and the need to count everybody for the sake of bringing home the tax money that is rightfully due the area. I know in Chicago where I have lived for over 50 years, that issue is front and center and thought about the rural areas where the need is great to have a solid count for the farmers and surrounding areas.

“Just a thought as my relatives — in their 90s now and managing their farms with sharecroppers — the need is greater as the next generations of both locals and immigrants continue the legacy of this great area of Illinois and the census tract is more important than ever given the aging population of local farmers and merchants servicing the wonderful counties in Central Illinois.”

Taking Bill’s concern to heart, it seems fitting to remind all readers what’s at stake. Once all 50 states are counted, 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be apportioned, as will electoral college delegates. The average number of constituents per House member has climbed every decade, from about 34,000 after the 1790 census to more than 700,000 following 2010. It’s more than doubled since just 1950, when the average was about 334,000.

In June 2019 the Population Reference Bureau projected Illinois will lose one seat, along with Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. (Gainers are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Oregon, adding one each, while Texas adds two.) If Illinois is undercounted, there’s a chance we could lose two.

The other pressing factor is federal aid allotted by population; U.S. Rep. Chuy Garcia, D-Chicago, says each missed person costs the state up to $20,000 over a decade.

Get counted. Visit my2020census.gov or call 844-330-2020. It’s quick, free and important. 

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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