With Congress seat possible, NC urges census participation
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — With encouraging prospects for additional congressional representation and federal dollars, North Carolina needs to do all it can to ensure the most accurate and complete census count next April, state officials said Monday.
Gov. Roy Cooper, a Cabinet member and other government and nonprofit leaders held a news conference to mark the one-year countdown to the decennial national census required by the U.S. Constitution. Cooper created a state Complete Count Commission several months ago designed to promote the count so all families and individuals living in the state on April 1, 2020, participate.
“Good decisions are based on good numbers, and the decisions that will be made best from this census will impact the long-term future of our state,” said Machelle Sanders, state Administration Department secretary and the commission’s chairwoman. “So the bottom line is that numbers matter.”
The Census Bureau says state and local population totals nationally are used to distribute more than $675 billion in federal funds annually, as well as to reapportion the 435 voting seats in the U.S. House.
North Carolina now has 13 House seats. Cooper says there’s a good chance the state’s population has grown enough since 2010 — when it was 9.6 million — to gain a 14th seat for the next decade during the 2021 redistricting cycle. North Carolina’s state budget office estimated the population at 10.3 million in July 2017.
The recent increases are equal to the state growing annually by the population of the city of High Point, according to Cooper, who said he’s been told North Carolina is likely to get an additional House seat.
The governor said he understands why every person counted is important. While attorney general in the early 2000s, Cooper represented the state in court during Utah’s challenge to the Census Bureau’s counting and sampling methods. Those methods ultimately left Utah less than 900 people short of earning a fourth seat. Instead, North Carolina got No. 13.
“The population count was so very close,” Cooper said inside the House chamber at the old Capitol building. “That’s why it’s so important that we get the word out and we get everyone in North Carolina to stand up to be counted.”
The Complete Count Commission and its nongovernmental partners say they’re focusing on ensuring groups with lower census response rates will be enumerated. They include low-income and rural residents, young children, military personnel and non-native English speakers. Representatives of Latino and American Indian groups mentioned efforts to boost population counts.
Other census countdown events were scheduled for Monday in Charlotte, Gastonia and Fayetteville, Cooper’s office said.
Machelle is the correct spelling in the third paragraph.