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As 120 million households receive their 2010 Census forms in the mail this week, U.S. residents are encouraged to participate in a process that is as old as the nation itself. Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution requires a census of the population every 10 years to ensure the fair allocation of representatives in Congress.
In recognition today of the 259th birthday of James Madison, the principal writer of the Constitution and the fourth President of the United States, Census Bureau Director Robert Groves visited Montpelier — Madison's colonial home near Orange, Va. Groves stood in Madison's library, the very room that one of the Founding Fathers used to draft the Virginia Plan that became the Constitution.
“I have devoted my professional career to the science of statistics — not history — yet being in this room profoundly reminds me of my own personal civic obligation to participate in the census and ensure we get it right,” Groves said in a video message titled “Article I, Section 2” available on the “Why It's Important” portion of the 2010 Census Web site at <http://2010.census.gov/2010census/why/constitutional.php>.
The Constitution had a bold and ambitious idea to empower the people over their new government. The plan was to count every person living in the newly created United States of America and to use that count to determine representation in Congress — marking an important turning point in world history. This new plan took a tool of government oppression and made it a tool of political empowerment for the governed.
The first census took place in 1790, counting nearly 4 million people, and the country has continued the process every 10 years since then. This year, the census expects to count more than 300 million people, most of those by mail response. Households are asked to take about 10 minutes to answer the 10 questions on the easy and safe 2010 Census form and mail it back.
“Please open the census envelope, fill out the simple form and mail it back,” Groves said. “Our Founding Fathers would be proud if in this moment we achieved what they too sought — a complete count of everyone in the country.”
The 2010 Census is a count of everyone living in the United States. By law, everyone in the United States, both citizens and noncitizens, must be counted every 10 years. Census data are used to reapportion congressional seats to states and directly affect how more than $400 billion per year in federal funding is distributed to state, local and tribal governments. The 2010 Census form is one of the shortest census questionnaires in history and takes about 10 minutes to complete. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share respondents' answers with anyone, including other federal agencies and law enforcement entities.