It's as American as baseball and apple pie. No, I'm not talking about the March Madness of college basketball, (even though that would probably qualify!) I'm speaking of the 10-year Census. And since it has been 10 years, let me remind you why the government is sending out the shortest Census form ever.
The Constitution mandates a decennial count of all the people who live in America. Pretty straight forward. Now the trick is to get an accurate count for fair representation in government and an appropriate balance of federal and state funds to places like Minot, Kenmare or Burlington.
Please don't confuse this Census with any other type of survey or questionnaire that you may have received or will receive in the mail. The official U.S. Census is simply 10 questions per person, which can be completed in less than 10 minutes probably in less time that it will take you to read this column. It's really that easy.
By now, many of you will have already received the blue Census form in the mail, and many will have already taken the time to fill it out and send it back. Thank you! That makes the job of others much easier, and you won't have to worry about a Census employee knocking on your door or calling you to ask you to fill out the form.
For the rest of my column, I would like to focus on those who may not be so sure about the Census, those who have questions or those who aren't sure if they have been counted properly.
If you are a military family, don't worry, the Census does NOT impact your residency or voting privileges. So please fill it out and be properly counted. For snowbirds, if you consider Minot to be your main place of residence, this is where you need to fill out a form and be counted. For those workers, be they oil field employees or otherwise, who are only here on a temporary basis, you should fill out the form for where you are living on April 1st of this year. And for college students, like those living off campus at Minot State University, please fill this out for your residence in Minot. You spend the majority of the year here, and you shouldn't be counted on your parent's Census in other cities within North Dakota. You need to be counted where you spend the majority of your time.
Now, if for whatever reason you feel you haven't been counted, there are locations throughout town, where a volunteer will be able to provide a Census form and assist you. These locations and times are the following: Minot State University, Jones Room (Student Center, second floor) from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday (March 19-April 19); Minot Housing Authority, 108 Burdick Expressway East, Tuesday-Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Dakota Square Mall at varying times for the next month.
Please, please, please take advantage of these local centers of information for assistance. They are available to make this Census the easiest and most successful ever. In 2000, 78 percent of residents in Ward County returned their forms or were counted by a Census employee. That compares favorably to the national average of 72 percent. Let's continue to set the bar high by surpassing 80 percent in returns in this year's Census. It's in our hands.
(Mark Lyman is one of four community columnists for The Minot Daily?News)