• 52°

Can we trust the expensive census?

Nearly one year after the official “Census Day” of 2010, the whole process still has me scratching my head.

Is this truly the best way to figure out how many Americans exist?

The process seems flawed, at best, more likely downright archaic.

Just looking at the figures in the Miss-Lou is enough to baffle a person.

First, Adams County sighed at the notion of losing population. Then a few days later we all learned the loss was worse than originally thought.

It seems someone forgot to let Adams County know that the inmates at the new prison were included in the full count.

The logic in counting inmates, who don’t live here and most of who are not American citizens, seems lost on me. But it makes perfect sense to the Census.

With the prison issue resolved, one would think the census data would be understandable, particularly with regard to the issue of redistricting.

No such luck.

Apparently, the redistricting data the census released wasn’t accurate.

That’s according to the redistricting consultant the county hired.

The consultant, Bill Rigby, said the data the U.S. Census Bureau released was based on out-of-date county district maps.

The whole process just seems sketchy and inefficient.

At last estimate the 2010 Census’ price tag was approximately $13.1 billion.

That’s approximately $42 per person counted — including the illegal immigrants and prisoners.

Yet for all of that money expended, we learn the data may be inaccurate.

Vidalia leaders believe their count was inaccurate, pointing out that the numbers derived from utility connections don’t match the losses the census data indicates.

Across Mississippi and Louisiana, questions of redistricting seem to come down to the decisions of a handful of redistricting consultants — hired by the entities being redistricted.

That just doesn’t seem like a sound system.

After billions of dollars are invested in the whole thing, it all comes down to one or two people deciding how to interpret the data. That data affects political power and government representation.

It’s no wonder groups immediately started filing lawsuits over the census data and the redistricting process.

That the census data was released right at the start of an election season just complicates matters more. The validity of the election comes into question — at least in the minds of some people.

The courts should rule on at least some of the initial legal challenges soon.

Unfortunately, once the census data is released, it sort of lingers around as the law — or at least an official stamp of authenticity — until the next census in 10 years. Communities such as ours that feel the count may be inaccurate have to live with the possible mistakes for a decade.

Couldn’t our nation create a better, more efficient system, somehow?

Although the country’s conspiracy theorists would freak out at the notion, some form of voter ID/Social Security number system could resolve questions and challenges in the credibility of the census.

If our country managed to put a man on the moon four decades ago, can’t we figure out a more efficient, trustworthy method of simply counting citizens?

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.

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