How new group hopes to promote 2020 census in Lake County

  • Census forms, like these from 2010, will be mailed to U.S. residents starting in April.

    Census forms, like these from 2010, will be mailed to U.S. residents starting in April. Daily Herald File Photo

  • Jessica Vealitzek

    Jessica Vealitzek

  • Rich Hill

    Rich Hill

  • Steve Lentz

    Steve Lentz

 
 
Updated 9/19/2019 8:02 PM

A bipartisan group of Lake County Board members, local mayors and other public servants is coming together to increase participation in the 2020 U.S. census.

The Lake County Complete Count Committee joins groups with identical missions in Kane and DuPage counties, as well as in Mundelein, Round Lake Beach, Elgin, Aurora and other suburbs. There are nearly 200 complete-count committees in Illinois and thousands more across the country, a U.S. Census Bureau spokeswoman said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Accurate census numbers are important because the nation's population total determines or helps shape congressional representation, congressional district boundaries, state and county legislative districts, and much more.

An inaccurate tally could result in some communities not receiving their fair shares of federal funds for social services, schools, libraries, police, road programs and other vital efforts.

"We are all affected by census totals," said Lake County Board member Jessica Vealitzek, a Hawthorn Woods Democrat who will serve on the new committee. "To receive the best representation, it's important that every person is counted."

What the census does

Mandated by the Constitution and organized by the Census Bureau, the count will begin in remote parts of Alaska in January. Most U.S. households will receive postcards in March.

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The census's primary mission is an actual tally of people living in residential structures. That includes immigrants and long-term visitors -- not just U.S. citizens.

One of the census's key uses is determining the number of representatives each state sends to the U.S. House.

While each state always has two U.S. senators for a total of 100, House membership is fixed at 435 but varies state to state.

Round Lake Beach Mayor and count committee member Rich Hill noted Illinois likely will lose one of its 18 U.S. House seats after the census because of an estimated population drop since 2010. The census will put an official number on that decline.

"We need to do all we can to make sure we don't lose two seats," Hill said.

Diverse membership

Lake County's count committee was created last week by the county board. The other mayors chosen to participate were Mundelein's Steve Lentz, Waukegan's Sam Cunningham, North Chicago's Leon Rockingham and Zion's Bill McKinney.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Round Lake Beach created its own complete-count committee last year; so did Mundelein.

"We feel we are a little ahead of the curve on this topic," Lentz said.

As for county board members, Vealitzek will be joined on the panel by board Chairwoman and Lake Bluff Democrat Sandy Hart, Fox Lake Republican Judy Martini, Round Lake Beach Democrat Terry Wilke, Waukegan Democrat Angelo Kyle, Waukegan Democrat Mary Ross Cunningham and Zion Republican Brent Paxton.

The other members will be representatives from agencies including the county health department, the Lake County Coalition for the Homeless and the Lake County Alliance for Human Services.

The group will develop strategies for increasing awareness of the census and boosting participation. It will prioritize connecting with what Lentz called "hard-to-reach populations."

Some people -- such as college students, military personnel and the homeless -- are hard to count because of where they live. Others, such as members of racial and ethnic minorities and immigrants, can be reluctant to complete the forms or may not grasp their importance.

Vealitzek and other committee advocates believe President Donald Trump's immigration policies and a distrust of government agents in some communities may make achieving a precise count in 2020 more difficult.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield called Trump's unsuccessful effort to add a citizenship question to the survey a "cynical attempt to depress participation and skew the results against communities with large immigrant and minority populations."

The committee can try to ease anxiety about the census, Vealitzek said, by spreading factual information about the effort. For example, people should know personal census data is kept secret. It's illegal to disclose anything that identifies a person or business -- even to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the FBI.

"If some are left out, it creates a void in our community," Hill said. "Everyone needs to be represented."

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