LIHU‘E — The first round of statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau are out for the public to see, and there’s much more information to come.
Recently, population counts for each state were released, showing the population of Hawai‘i has increased by 7% to 1,455,271 over the last 10 years.
The numbers didn’t change Hawai‘i’s legislative representation on Capitol Hill, but that did happen in some states. The 2020 Census has caused shifts in the Electoral College for 13 states because representation is based on population counts.
Dale Rosenfeld, a field representative with the Census Bureau who has been out knocking on doors on Kaua‘i in an attempt to help get accurate information for the census, said the Electoral College is one of many reasons why the census is so important.
“We could go the same way as New York and lose seats because people don’t answer the census,” Rosenfeld said. “And that’s been my experience.”
Recent release of population numbers is just step one in the roll-out of the 2020 Census. More detailed data on households’ racial, ethnic and gender makeup, whether they rent or own their homes, and how everybody is related in their homes, at geographic levels as small as neighborhoods, will be released sometime in August and September.
States use this data to redraw congressional and legislative districts, and that redistricting data won’t be ready until months past the original, March 31 deadline. That’s because of the pandemic and the discovery of anomalies the Census Bureau needed to iron out.
Twenty-seven states are required to finish redistricting this year. States with tight deadlines this year have gone to court to extend them, changed deadlines through constitutional amendments and talked about using other data sources. Ohio and Alabama have sued the Census Bureau, trying to force the agency to release the redistricting data sooner.
The information reported in the 2020 Census has implications far beyond, including helping states land federal money in coming years.
Rosenfeld said if residents don’t fill out census surveys, this can mean loss of money, federal money for schools, hospitals, highways and, more importantly, for congressional seats. And she’s run into problems getting Kaua‘i residents to participate, mainly because they’re afraid of getting scammed.
“Even (some of) our Kaua‘i county government employees do not return my phone calls because they fear I am a scam,” Rosenfeld said. “And I have people who will not return my call (because) they don’t think it’s important to have their voice counted.”
When people don’t answer the phone, Rosenfeld gets in her car and literally drives house to house, trying to convince residents to answer the survey.
“I’m having to drive from the Wailua Homesteads all the way to Hanapepe because the respondent won’t answer our phone calls,” Rosenfeld said, stressing the importance of not just the 2020 Census survey, but many others. “What I’d like to get through to people that the census does surveys year-round every year.”
Stephanie Shinno, education and business reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Associated Press contributed to this story.