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Rural Missouri Magazine

Let's all get counted

AMEC executive vice president Barry Hart
by Barry Hart

Most people wish they sent fewer tax dollars to Washington, D.C. — but everyone wants to make sure their family and community get the most from that money. That’s one of the reasons why every Missourian needs to stand up and be counted in the 2010 Census.

It turns out Missouri has a huge stake in the outcome of this head count. U.S. Reps. Jo Ann Emerson and Lacy Clay brought this to my attention recently. The two are leading a bipartisan push to get all Missourians counted as the census draws to a close this summer.

First, census data will directly affect how more than $400 billion per year in federal funding is distributed to state and local governments. An accurate count for Missouri will ensure our state gets its fair share of tax dollars.

But more importantly, it is population that determines how many U.S. representatives a state has. And that figure, plus the number of senators, equals the number of electoral votes a state has in the presidential election. Because states such as New York and California already have Midwestern states outnumbered, we can’t afford to lose any more seats.

Early projections on the census outcome had Missouri keeping the 435th seat in the House, edging out Minnesota by 10,000 people. However, Minnesota’s census returns are second in the nation while Missouri is barely above the national average.

Most Missouri counties show a decrease in sending back the census survey form compared to the 2000 Census. If Minnesota’s census count comes back more favorable than Missouri’s, they would keep their seat in Congress and we would lose ours. Missouri would go from nine representatives to only eight. Let’s not let Minnesota get one of our House seats and the vote that goes with it!

Should this happen, rural Missouri would be the biggest loser. Right now, Congress is debating many issues that will have far-reaching consequences for rural people. These include the climate change issue and funding for the Rural Utilities Service, which lends money electric cooperatives use to build power lines.

Already, Missouri is outnumbered by more populated states that are at odds with us on these issues. Losing clout as a result of losing a congressional seat in Washington, D.C., is bad enough. But it would be more upsetting if that loss came because some residents did not get counted.

Time after time, all nine members of Missouri’s House delegation have gone to bat for rural Missourians on issues of vital importance. These include urban legislators Lacy Clay, Russ Carnahan, Todd Akin and Emanuel Cleaver. In fact, we call Rep. Clay “Mr. Cooperative” because he once went to bat for electric cooperatives when one of his counterparts tried to hurt our good name.

I shudder to think what would happen if rural Missouri lost the services of strong supporters such as Ike Skelton, Sam Graves, Roy Blunt, Jo Ann Emerson and Blaine Luetkemeyer.

On May 1, the U.S. Census entered its second phase as volunteers across America began going door to door in follow-up efforts to make sure everyone is counted. This second phase includes roughly 48 million households that have yet to return forms. Some households that returned an incomplete form or submitted a late response might get a visit to ensure a complete and accurate census.

If you encounter a census worker in the coming weeks, please cooperate with them to ensure an accurate count. My wife, Laura, filled ours out. She said answering the questions is quick, easy, important and safe. All of the information collected will be kept confidential. Completing this civic responsibility is critical for Missouri, our region and our country.

Please do your part and be counted. You could say all of Missouri is counting on you. Let’s not lose the House seat, nor the tax dollars we have relied on in the past to improve the quality of life in the Show-Me State.

If you have questions or did not receive a census form, call 1-866-872-6868 or visit www.2010.census.gov.

Hart is the executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.

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Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives

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