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Voices / Letters from readers

For such an engaged and public-spirited state, why does Windham County lag in its census response?

The census, mandated by the U.S. Constitution, has been conducted nationwide every 10 years since 1790. The 2020 Census started April 1.

At seven weeks into the survey, Windham County showed the second-lowest county response rate in the whole state with a return rate of only 35 percent as of May 16. The average return rate for Vermont is an anemic 50 percent, the fourth-lowest return rate in the country.

For such an engaged and public-spirited state, how is it that 46 other states are participating in the census at higher — and, in many cases, much higher — rates?

I do not get it. The Census Bureau has made it gut-easy to respond online. Put into your web browser and, once you hit the Start Questionnaire button, the next page will ask for a number that was sent to you by mail.

But if you do not have that number, you can still start the questionnaire by simply clicking “If you do not have a Census ID, click here.”

It takes only a few minutes to complete the survey, and the information asked for is not intrusive. Having completed the survey, I can assure you that your friends, enemies, neighbors, town, places where you bank and shop, and employers know all this stuff about you already.

Vermont’s response pattern should be of concern to those of us living in rural communities, since the more-populated areas have much-higher return rates than rural areas, even here in Windham County.

If the response rates remain the same through the end of the census, those urban areas, because of a more-accurate count of the number of people in those communities, will gain advantages in the receipt of more state and federal funds; more representation in the House and Senate in Vermont; an easier time securing state assistance for planning, road repair, and construction; support for the arts; emergency services, if needed; and support for housing and job development.

Replying to the census is a Constitutional responsibility for all of us. The knowledge gained through the census underwrites the Constitutional mandate of one person, one vote and equal representation for all.

I know that many people are concerned about our government and that many are not happy with the federal government at all, but do not cut off your nose to spite your face. Not filling out the census form will in many ways diminish your quality of life in the long run and deny all of us in the rural United States fair representation.

Get it done!

David L. Deen

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Originally published in The Commons issue #562 (Wednesday, May 20, 2020). This story appeared on page B3.

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