Invitations to respond to the 2020 U.S. Census will be delivered between March 12-20. The census is mandated by the U.S. Constitution, in Article 1, Section 2. Our nation has counted its population every ten years since 1790.
The census data will provide the roadmap for legislative redistricting, or reapportionment, to take place next year. That, too, is a constitutional mandate. Article 3, section 5, of our state constitution requires the legislature to apportion the state into legislative districts that consist of compact, contiguous territory, with population as nearly equal as is practicable, based on the last preceding federal census. If the Legislature doesn’t finish the reapportionment by December 1, the Supreme Court has 90 days to draw the legislative boundaries.
Section 2 of Article 3 specifies that there are to be at least 50, but no more than 75 House members, and at least 25 but not more than 35 Senators.
At the last redistricting, in 2001, there was a special legislative session held on October 23-24 in which two bills were approved. HB 1001 stated that Legislative policy was focused on equal population standards, protecting communities of interest by means of compact and contiguous districts, respect for geographical and political boundaries; and protecting minority voting rights. SB 1 described each legislative district, down to the county, township, or census block, as needed.
An interim committee consisting of 15 legislators spent the summer of 2001 developing the proposal to submit to the full legislature. They held five meetings, including one in Mission, SD, to provide opportunity for public testimony.
As we look forward to next year’s reapportionment, it highlights the importance of participating in the national census. In addition to helping develop South Dakota’s legislative districts, your responses will produce statistics that are used to determine how federal funding is allocated to programs such as federal highway funding, Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The data will help state and local leaders make decisions about key public services such as public infrastructure.
Once you receive the invitation to participate in the census, you can respond online, by phone, or by mail. The Census Bureau estimates it will take approximately ten minutes to complete the questionnaire. Not only is it constitutionally required that you participate, the Census Bureau is required by law to protect your answers.
More information about the census is available online at 2020census.gov.