Opinion

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Reality Check

Making Sense of the Census

Even if you don’t see the personal benefit from participation in the census, do it for the kids and for the love of Montana

Many of us live in Montana because we don’t want to be bothered by the big city stuff that we think is hogwash. We also like hands-off government, and enjoy being left alone. So when a new decade hits, and the census collecting begins, few of us are eager to participate. I too worry that data provided by me will be misused. In fact, despite my deep desire to know my heritage, I won’t participate in the 23 and Me testing because I don’t know where my information is really going once I mail in the saliva swab. But even I have been persuaded that providing census data is critically important for our collective future as Montanans.

We need recognition. Our way of life is largely marginalized by urban policymakers – our love of freedom, our family values, our respect for agriculture, the great outdoors, energy production and our distaste for gun control. The only way policymakers take note is based upon viewing us as a sufficient enough population to matter, and by increasing the amount of representation we have in Congress. If we don’t have accurate census data, we will continue to be marginalized as a state undeserving of recognition legislatively and financially.

Participation in the census is founded in the Constitution. For those of us who are constitutionalists, we cannot espouse adherence to the Second Amendment, all the while ignoring Article I, Section 2. Census participation is so important that choosing not to participate is technically a violation of federal law. And what about our privacy? The Census Bureau is barred by law from sharing information it gathers from individual households with anyone, including other federal agencies.

Our descendants should know we existed. Have you noticed the decline in any markers of our respective lives by way of burial plot and/or headstone? If you have ever researched your ancestry, one of the first reference tools with validity you can use is census records. Don’t worry about people finding you now; the 2020 census results cannot be publicly released for another 72 years.

The most compelling reason why I will be participating in the census: It helps Montana kids get a free or reduced-cost lunch at school, and we all know kids learn better on full bellies. If you have never used a road or bridge in Montana, maybe you haven’t personally benefitted from the census. And if you don’t value federal funding to help us fight forest fires, perhaps the census isn’t meaningful to you. But these funds are meaningful to the rest of Montana. So even if you don’t see the personal benefit from participation in the census, do it for the kids and for the love of Montana.

Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.