Emily Articulated: My Two Census

By Emily Erickson
Reader Columnist

This week, I’ve decided to write about two things, both of which (unless you’ve been living under a rock) you’ve at least heard of. The first is something you likely already care about, and the second is something about which I think you should.

Emily Erickson.

These things are the “Game of Thrones” HBO series and the 2020 Census, and they’re more alike than you think.

First, if you’re unfamiliar with “Game of Thrones,” stop whatever it is you are doing, rent season one, and prepare to lose about three months of your life to excessive binging. When you are finished and you’ve thrown away all your tear-soaked kleenexes and rage-punched pillows, come back to this article and read on.

Next, as the name implies, the 2020 Census is only a year away, and affects us arguably more than finding out if the White Walkers take over the Seven Kingdoms. Not only does it have applications in academic and commercial research at a national level, but it has four important functions that have state and local implications as well. And even though the census still feels far away, the day will be upon us as quickly as the wine draining from Cersei’s flagon.

The first function of the census that will impact us locally is reapportionment, or the redistribution of seats in the House of Representatives for a given state, in response to changes in the recorded population. I like to think of reapportionment as it applies to the House of Stark. If each season was a census year, and the population was gauged on house allegiances to Stark, congressional seats in the North would have been removed and added with as much undulation as the roll of a freshly decapitated head, as leadership shifted from Ned, to Rob, to Jon(s), to Sansa and so on.

The next function of a census is redistricting, or the redrawing of legislative districts based on changes to population distribution within a state. The boundaries are created to ensure each district is comprised of relatively equal numbers of people. The tricky part of redistricting, however, is that because state legislation is often responsible for drawing the lines, partisan influence tends to creep into the process, also known as gerrymandering. This manipulation of systems for personal gain, is of course, the Little Finger approach, as he regularly abuses information in the name of power, money, and collusion. Let’s just hope gerrymandering meets a similar fate.

Then, there’s the function of procuring demographic data for which the census is crucial. Demographic data paints a picture of who we are as a population, and helps groups from national, state and local levels decide where to allocate their resources and attention. These groups use the data for everything from civil rights outreach to community engagement to determining where unique services may be necessary. Creating specialized plans based on the specific needs of a population, all in the name of the greater good? You bet, that has “Daenerys Stormborn of the House of Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons” written all over it. Go, Dany, go.

The fourth and final function of the census has the most direct effect on us locally. This, of course, is government resource allocation, or the federal, state and local funds and programs distributed based on the exact population recorded in the census. For each person counted, a specific amount of money is directed toward infrastructure, public health and education — meaning that when people don’t participate in the census, resources that could have been used to directly benefit us won’t make it into our communities. Like the Lannister dynasty, when people opt out of the census, money is funneled away from the people who need it most and into the hands of those who don’t.

So, here’s my two cens…us: The 2020 Census matters as it will directly impact our services, our representation, and our funding in the 10 years succeeding it. So, as the census approaches and communities and organizations gear up to get people involved, let’s make like the undead and spread awareness from Westeros to Essos and beyond. Valar Dohaeris.

Emily Erickson is a freelance writer and bartender originally from Wisconsin, with a degree in sociology and an affinity for playing in the mountains.

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