Blog Post

Insight: Be Counted!

By: Natalie Gochnour

Originally published in Utah Business Magazine 

Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect an institutional position of the Gardner Institute. We hope the opinions shared contribute to the marketplace of ideas and help people as they formulate their own INFORMED DECISIONS™.

Twenty-one years ago, I was in a car in our nation’s capital with demographers from Missouri and Illinois. The head of the Population Division for the U.S. Census Bureau had just picked us up from our hotel and was driving us across Key Bridge into Georgetown. We were in D.C. to provide input from the states on how to improve Census 2000. We were talking about a census concept known as “usual place of residence.” It essentially means where you sleep most of the time. It was during this conversation that I realized that Utah’s 11,000 missionaries (at the time) would not be included in Utah’s 2000 Census count. It gave me pause.

Several months later I found myself in the Utah State Capitol as the 2000 Census results were being released. A group of us were in a cubicle standing around a computer as the Census Bureau director explained the apportionment counts – the process of dividing 435 seats in congress to the 50 states. Utah did NOT receive an additional congressional seat. My fear came to life when a member of the media asked the director which state was next in line to receive a new Member of Congress. “Utah,” he said, “in a very close call.” After a lot of drama and a Supreme Court challenge, Utah fell 80 people short of gaining a seat.

I share this story for a reason. Every person counts. April 1, 2020 is Census Day. Make sure you fill out your form.

The Census count is the largest peacetime mobilization of the federal government. Over the next few weeks the Census Bureau will count every person living in the 50 states, District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories. And, I do mean everyone – as long as they meet the “usual place of residence” criterion or are a member of the armed services. And while that still does not include Utahns living abroad, it does include everyone – citizen or not – that lives within the confines of Utah.

The Census means three things to Utah — representation, money, and planning.

Representation. Analysts do not expect Utah to gain another congressional seat this year, but the Census will impact in-state representation through the redistricting process for state and local government representation, including the state legislature, city councils, county commissions, school boards, and more. I expect fast-growing areas like Wasatch County, Washington County, Utah County, and the