Original Article: https://www.jacksonville.com/story/opinion/editorials/2020/08/19/editorial-page/3399325001/

It makes no sense to stop the U.S. Census before a full count is made.

The Census Bureau is going to stop its data collection at the end of September rather than the end of October.

This not an abstract statistical issue. The undercount in 2010 cost Florida about $20 billion in federal funds over the decade.

An undercount this time probably will cost Florida even more in lost federal funds in the next decade, funds that will touch residents in many areas. Each person missed will cost Florida about $15,000 per person per year.

For instance, the census determines funding for over 300 federal programs in health, education, arts, the environment and programs for students, the elderly and low-income people, to mention a few.

While Medicare and Medicaid receive large amounts of funds, there is a federal program that awards funds to small businesses.

Even if there were an accurate count, Florida is adding over 600 new residents per day.

A Florida TaxWatch report showed that in 2015 this state received less in federal grants per capita than any state.

A report from the Urban Institute predicts that Florida will have another undercount due largely to the Black and Hispanic populations. Very young children are most likely to be undercounted, yet they benefit greatly from government programs.

In early August, 37 percent of U.S. households had not responded to the census.

A group of Florida nonprofits, Florida Counts Census 2020, noted that the response rate in the highly minority congressional District 3 is 60 percent while the response rate in high-poverty Putnam County is just 50 percent.

The national response rate is 62.6 percent; Florida’s average is 59.7 percent.

It is not too late to respond to the census. People can respond by phone, email and mail.

Elected officials should take every opportunity to encourage people to respond to the census.

Fast Facts:

  • A census is mandated in the U.S. Constitution.
  • A census has been conducted every 10 years since 1790.
  • All answers to the census must be confidential by law. Individual answers may not be shared even with law enforcement or other government agencies.

Marsy’s Law consequences

There was no need to protect Florida crime victims with a Constitutional Amendment. There is more than enough political support to provide protection with legislation, which also enables corrections to be made when unintended consequences appear.

One good example occurred recently when the Florida Police Benevolent Association claimed that law enforcement officers are victims under Marsy’s Law, meaning their identities must be kept secret from the public.

The association sued the city of Tallahassee to keep secret the names of officers involved in shooting incidents.

The First Amendment Foundation intervened in the lawsuit as well as media companies such as Gannett, the owner of The Florida Times-Union.

On July 24, a judge rejected the police association’s argument, saying that Marsy’s Law was not intended to apply to officers acting in their official capacity.

As the First Amendment Foundation noted in a news release, “It is extraordinary that in a time of international movements opposing police brutality, systemic racism and calling for greater accountability in law enforcement, the Florida Police Benevolent Association moves in the wrong direction.”

In fact, it is important for the credibility of the police that real information is released, not rumors.