Jefferson lecture series discusses census in the 'Boro

Category:  News
Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020 at 4:17 PM
Jefferson lecture series discusses census in the 'Boro by Shayma Musa
Graphic: Sydney Keefer

10 years.

A handful of questions.

Approximately $675 billion at stake.

Every 10 years the U.S. Constitution mandates that the federal government must take a count of Americans that live in the country. Nancy Agostine, a partnership specialist with the Philadelphia Regional Census Center, spoke about why the census is significant in the first installment of the Jefferson Educational Society’s spring lecture series, which took place on Jan. 14 at Edinboro’s Alexander Music Center.

“This is not about parties. It is about a united country,” she said at the start of her presentation. “The census data determines our representation in the House of Representatives. The census number is responsible for redistricting at the federal, state and local levels, and the distribution of $675 billion of federal money according to census numbers.”

In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf established the Pennsylvania Redistricting Commission early last year to gather input from state residents about how to best avoid partisan gerrymandering. District lines will be redrawn in Pennsylvania after information is collected from the 2020 census.

Gerrymandering has been a hot button issue in Pennsylvania of late. In 2017, the League of Women Voters sued the state, arguing that the district map punished Democrats in state elections. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled with the League and ordered that district maps be redrawn to equally favor Democrats and Republicans. After 2020 census data is collected, this is the first time that the maps will be redrawn.
Agostine’s presentation at Edinboro adds to additional local action being taken to ensure census success.

Borough of Edinboro Manager Kevin Opple and Edinboro Library Director Randalee Gross are working to more accurately represent the demographics of the local community.

“Edinboro has been historically undercounted in the census,” Opple said. “At one of these meetings (a census informational meeting) a woman made a really good point. She said her son was 9 years old this year, meaning that this is most likely the only time that he will be counted as a part of her household. That puts this in perspective. Counting that one kid matters for federal services like WIC, grants for educational programs and so much more.”

When taking the census, individuals should list themselves at the residence that they spend more than half the year at. That means that any college students who live on campus, or in nearby off-campus housing, are counted in the state and Edinboro borough population — along with any roommates that they have. This means that if you live with a roommate or roommates, you only have to complete one census form as one household.

According to Agostine’s presentation, the census will be available online for the first time in 2020, as well as through telephone and in paper form. It will also be offered in 13 different languages to increase participation among historically undercounted minority populations.

The online nature of the census has been met with some apprehension, according to Opple. “Some people are nervous about inputting their information online, but that’s not really a concern here. You put more sensitive information out when you’re shopping online.”

Gross added, “If anyone is apprehensive about using technology, or how to take the census, we can help explain it to them.”

In her presentation, Agostine talked about this topic. “All information given to the census is encrypted and protected by law. It cannot be shared with anyone; it can’t be shared with your landlord, local police office, support office, ICE, or even the president.”

Agostine further emphasized that only data, not personal information, is collected. “When responses are sent in to the census bureau, immediately personal identification information is separated from the data. I am no longer Nancy Agostine who lives on Curtis Road, I’ve just become a 59-year-old white female from Summit Township.”

The Constitution mandates that personal information and data collected can’t be put together for 72 years. The 72-year mark will hit again in April of 2022 when the 1950 census information is released.

By April 1, 2020, every household in America should receive an invitation to participate in the census, with information on how to complete it online. The online census will be available through July 31. If respondents don’t reply online, they will receive up to six in-person visits from a census official. These in-person visits will begin at the end of April.

The Erie County Public Library’s Edinboro branch will host their census day activities on March 23, from 2-8 p.m., and on April 8, from 1-5 p.m. The Edinboro borough building will also have laptops and computers available for community members to use on March 24, from 2-8 p.m., and April 9, from 2-8 p.m. Residents with questions or concerns can attend these events to have their questions answered and to complete their census.

“We’re trying to make it easy for people to complete the census...we want to offer a variety of times and days, so that regardless of a work schedule people can come in and complete it. I’m trying to have activities and fun things for the kids so that parents with younger kids can complete the census while their kids enjoy an activity,” Gross said.

Any questions or concerns can be directed toward Agostine at (814) 788-0981, or

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