ENTERPRISE EDITORIAL: Southeast Texas needs final census push for complete count


This was a tough year to keep track of things, ranging from doctor’s appointments to car maintenance. A pandemic will throw you off schedule, and Southeast Texas had a few natural disasters thrown in for good measure. But there is one thing that absolutely cannot be overlooked in 2020 — participating in the census.

For at least two more days — today and tomorrow, the last days of September — the census is still being conducted. Advocates for a full count are trying in the courts to get the traditional deadline of Sept. 30 extended until later this year or even early 2021. A federal court has extended the deadline until Oct. 31, but an appeal from the Trump Administration could reverse that.

We hope the deadline is extended. Southeast Texas and many other parts of the nation simply need more time to reach people who haven’t been counted yet because of the massive social disruptions of the coronavirus. But that’s something that will play out in the courts. The last two days of September should be treated as one final opportunity for everyone to be counted.

Why? Because this is something that happens only once every 10 years. Governments at all levels need to know how many people live in our cities, counties and states. Beyond that, the census collects important data about things like the size of families or the ages of residents. This helps the rest of us plan things like how many schools must be built or how many new miles of highways are needed.

Everyone must be counted — and that even includes people who came here illegally or are unsure of their immigration status. By law no one can be deported or penalized in any way for completing a census form. The information that is provided is for counting purposes only. At a time of growing cynicism and even fear of governmental overreach, that’s hard for some people to believe. But this is one tradition that Congress and the courts have respected for decades.

If you have a census form that was mailed to you, please fill it out now. It literally takes only a few minutes. Residents can also respond to the 2020 Census without a form at 2020census.gov or by calling (844) 330-2020. If you’ve completed your census but know a relative or friend who hasn’t, tell them how important this is.

Southeast Texas has been gaining only slightly in population while the rest of the state has boomed in recent decades. More than almost any region, we can’t afford to be undercounted or underrepresented.

These last-minute efforts might add only a few thousand residents to our total. But every single one of them is important, and every single one of them must be counted. Let’s get this done.

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