Among other things, the decennial national census is used to apportion seats in the US House of Representatives.
After the 2000 count, Connecticut lost one of our seats. We’d been at 6 since 1930; now we’re down to 5.
The census is also used to allocate funds for programs like Head Start, food stamps and other social service projects. As well, it provides the most accurate picture of exactly who lives where — information that’s important for businesses, scientists, sociologists and many others to know.
The census begins next year. And — if a coalition of civic-minded volunteers in lower Fairfield County has its way — it will provide a very accurate count of at least this small slice of America.
“Norwalk to Bridgeport” is a non-partisan effort. Several Westporters are involved, as are men and women in Fairfield, and the 2 cities bracketing them.
The other day, one of them talked about their work.
Deb Howland-Murray graduated from Staples in 1968. She moved away after college, but has lived here for the last 34 years. An illustrator, portrait artist and diversity educator, she’s active in a variety of arts groups.
She’s politically active. But, she says, Norwalk to Bridgeport transcends party lines. She and co-chair Sandy Lefkowitz helped organize this group to bring local citizens of many stripes together, in a cause that affects everyone.
The goal is simple: spread the word, so as many people in the area answer census questions as possible.
To do so, they’ve done things like organize a September 17 training session in Bridgeport. Attendees will learn how to make presentations about the census. Then they’ll go out into their communities — to churches, schools, civic clubs, etc. — and do just that.
Norwalk to Bridgeport is also compiling lists of local organizations they can reach out to, to pass the census word. They’re creating a calendar of events, so they can attend and pass out information there.
The US Census Bureau has printed materials. But, Deb says, it’s not quite user-friendly. She and her fellow volunteers are creating a 1-page handout, with graphics.
Bridgeport and Norwalk already have “Complete Count” committees — local groups working to ensure an accurate census. Westport and Fairfield do not.
“There’s a lot of suspicion about the census,” Deb says, noting the recent controversy about asking a citizenship question next year. “What’s going on in Washington is happening there. Here, we just want to provide accurate information. All we want is get people counted. We don’t care about their politics.”
Historically, she says, “the more diverse the community, the lower the participation. That hurts those communities. They need funding that comes from accurate counts. We need accurate representation. The census affects everyone.”