Because April Fools is canceled this year, let’s turn our attention to a far more important day that's still happening: Census Day!
No, it’s not the last day to fill out the census (that would be around August 14 when field workers will likely be knocking at procrastinator's doors), but a key day for the US Census Bureau, who use April 1 to determine who is counted and where—of course, you can respond before or after this date. It's also a good day to remind all Americans, and in particular Texans, who are estimated to be undercounted by as many as 576,900 residents in the 2020 census, to do their part and respond to the survey.
If you’ve received a questionnaire in the mail, there are three ways to respond: via mail, phone, or the easiest option—logging onto the official website and answering the questions. It takes about 3 minutes tops.
What's all the fuss, you ask? On top of counting our population, as mandated by the constitution, the census count directly affects how congressional and state legislative districts are drawn up, how many congressional seats and electoral college votes we’ll get, and how some $1.5 trillion in federal spending will be distributed. We want as accurate a count as possible to reflect our diverse, populous region.
About 36 percent of American households have responded (as of Monday), and Texas’s self-response rate is a little under that—around 31%. If you're able to respond online, that's the best way to do it right now due to limitations caused by the coronavirus.
COVID-19 is obviously posing a tough challenge for the US Census Bureau, with 500,000 of its temporary census-takers not able to begin knocking on doors until late May (or maybe even later, depending on the pandemic). The count for people experiencing homelessness or living in dorms, nursing homes, and other living facilities, including prisons, is also postponed into the summer. With all this in mind, the bureau still believes the count will be turned into the president by its December 31 deadline (it would take an act of Congress to postpone this deadline, so there's that), but how accurate it will be is anyone's guess. There's already a pervasive fear among many Latinos and Asian Americans about participating at all, despite the Supreme Court blocking a citizenship question from appearing on the census.
Houston and Harris County are hoping to inspire more people to participate and have commissioned new census-themed murals around town. Here's where you can find them:
- 1203 Westheimer Rd. in Montrose, by Sebastien "Mr. D1987" Boileau
- 6227 Southwest Fwy in Gulfton, by Anat Ronen
- There are more murals forthcoming in historically undercounted communities—Alief, Aldine, and South Central Houston—from local artists Lee Washington, Colors Oner, and Israel McCloud.