Thursday, November 19, 2009
Complete Count Committee organizes
By SUE WATSON
There are many reasons a state should get a complete census count, one of which is that United States Representatives apportioned to each state are determined based on population count.
No one has said that the Mississippi census data overlooked enough people to have made any difference in it losing a U.S. Representative district in reapportionment after the 2000 Census. But Willie DeBerry, who is in charge of getting the census count accurate for Louisiana and Mississippi next year, is not taking any chances.
Willie DeBerry of Dallas, Texas, and his brother, Holly Springs Mayor Andre’ DeBerry, want to do everything possible to make sure the count in Marshall County is complete when the census is taken April 1 of 2010.
To that end, the mayor is looking for about 15 people to serve on the Complete Count Committee in Holly Springs and Marshall County. He expects to have a representative from the two school districts, one from Rust College, from the local banks, from the community development offices, from the housing authority and from Institute of Community Services, he said.
The city will be the main driver in preparing for the Complete Count, but it will also bring in the county, the mayor said.
There are about 39,000 government entities nationwide that will be asked to help with assuring a complete count, Willie DeBerry said.
Some of those present for a recent first committee meeting were Amy Heaton, Stephanie Movre, Eileen Dowsing, Ken Robinson, Felicia Autry, Leevorn Richmond, Alfred Moore, Paul Lampley and Mayor DeBerry who is serving ex officio.
Willie DeBerry presented an overview of how the U.S. Census Bureau plans to try to get the word out so as many people as possible will know about and participate in the census. One of the first duties of the committee is to elect someone as a contact person to call monthly meetings until April 1, 2010.
January through April 2010 are the critical months in terms of getting ready, he said.
States compete for a share of about $400 billion annually of federal monies based on population, DeBerry said. Mississippi, Marshall County and Holly Springs does not want to lose any of this source of funding.
“The census only comes every 10 years and we want to get our fair share,” DeBerry said, explaining that the census is like a snapshot of America at a point in time. “If we don’t fill out the questionnaire, everyone not counted cuts into our piece of the pie for funds.”
There are 431 Congressional seats and Mississippi lost one after the 2010 Census. Another state gained the one Mississippi lost.
The formula works by first dividing the 431 Congressional Districts by the total census population in the United States to give the number of people who should be in each Congressional district. Then this average size of a Congressional district is divided by the population of a state to determine the number of Congressional districts it will get. When the population increases or decreases in a district, the Congressional district has to be redrawn in a process called reapportionment.
The formula guarantees that each district is evenly represented based on population as well as a state.
“Mississippi and Louisiana are not growing, but Mississippi lost a seat,” DeBerry said.
He’s the partnership coordinator for both states.
The U.S. Census targets areas it expects will be hard to get the count complete and the Complete Census Committee addresses the problem block-by-block, he said.
The Census form next year has only 10 questions which should take about 10 minutes to answer, he said. For states, that 10 minutes is the most important 10 minutes in a span of 10 years.
DeBerry said the Complete Count Committee has to understand that when a person can’t read, it does not matter what language is used to ask the 10 easy questions. The literacy of an area matters, also, because even if a person speaks English, they may not be able to read it.
The Complete Count Committee will establish a process to get the difficult tracts in the area of Holly Springs done, he said.
One way of getting ready for the Census will be a nationwide publicized Census in School project that will be used to kick off the census through a publicity campaign.
The Census in School project will help kick off the census in the community, he said.
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