By Senator Ken Yager
The U.S. Constitution mandates that everyone in the country be counted every 10 years. The first census was conducted in 1790 and it has been taken every ten years since our Founding Fathers realized the importance of an accurate count.
First, the count will determine how the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be divided among the 50 states. Currently, Tennessee has nine seats in the U.S. House. An undercount could result in the loss of a seat, while an accurate count could gain the state an additional representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The count will also determine the size of Tennessee’s House and Senate Districts in the General Assembly. Currently there are seven counties in the 12th senatorial district. After the final count is turned over to the General Assembly in the fall of 2020, the legislature will reapportion the districts according to the one-man-one-vote set out in the landmark Supreme Court Case of Baker v. Carr.
The count will affect county commission and school board districts too. The census bureau will turn a count over to each local government who will reapportion them based on the new count.
In addition to reapportionment, there are many other reasons we need an accurate census count. For example, the population count will affect the distribution of state shared revenues and grants to Tennessee counties. The economic data obtained by the census will affect the size and number of grants in which a county may qualify. In a worse case scenario, an undercount could cost our local cities and counties thousands in grant dollars. And, the state’s school funding formula is affected by the population growth too. These funds greatly impact the lives of thousands of people in our local communities.
The 12th district is comprised of independent folks who don’t want the government to know their business, including me. However, I can assure you that the census is safe and that your personal information is required by law to be protected.
I hope that when you get your census form in the mail, or when you receive a call from one of the local census takers, you will remember our Founding Fathers started the census as a way to make sure local, state and federal legislatures were fairly apportioned and that the monies due local governments were equitable distributed. Help us ensure this is done right here at home by being counted.