Ten questions. Ten minutes. That's the promise of the 2010 Census.
The Constitution demands that every man, woman and child in American be counted every 10 years.
With an April 1 deadline, a rush to fill out the decennial census questionnaires is under way in Merced.
Aside from providing an accurate reflection of national, state and local populations, census counts mean cold, hard cash. Local governments and nonprofits use the figures to lobby for federal funding and building projects.
Census-verified population counts determine representation in the U.S. Capitol, statehouses and even now on local school boards.
While this might seem an obvious reason to participate, hurdles abound. Local volunteers have created a "Complete Count" committee to reach out to residents who fear government retribution or financial risk if they fill out the questionnaires.
"I can tell you that a lot of people are just worried or nervous about giving out personal information," said Melissa Kelly-Ortega, chairwoman of the Merced County Complete Count Committee. "But the questionnaire doesn't ask about your finances or for your Social Security number. It's really just getting a count of the people that live in Merced County."
Local residents should have already received a notification from the census bureau in the mail, and will receive their questionnaires on Monday. The forms are due back to the government by April 1.
This week, "Off the 99," the Merced Sun-Star's public affairs talk show, invited several members of the Complete Count committee to our studio for a conversation. Guests chatted about language barriers, confusing questions, legislative representation and a local survey about understanding the census process.
"Off the 99" airs weekly on KYOS 1480 AM at 6 p.m. on Saturdays and 6:30 a.m. on Sundays, or all the time at www.mercedsunstar.com.
Reporters and "Off the 99" hosts Danielle E. Gaines and Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at (209) 385-2457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.