2nd Editorial, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2000

CATEGORY: EDT Editorials

AUTHOR: JOER

2nd Editorial, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2000

HED: Up for the count

The Census will determine

our congressional numbers

Tupelo’s Census Office opened Friday to an unusual amount of fanfare and flourish.

It was a fitting start for the nationwide enumeration beginning a new century and new millennium.

It’s also a critically important procedure for Mississippians because our state probably will lose a seat in Congress if we don’t get a maximum count. Mississippi’s population is growing, but it’s not growing as much as other states like Georgia, Texas and Florida. The faster-growing states will shift the apportionment of population their way, leading almost certainly to the loss of one seat in the U.S. House.

First District Rep. Roger Wicker, a third-term Republican, was at Friday’s ceremonies. He’s interested, as is every other elected public official in Mississippi. Population affects any kind of politics in which districts must be redrawn to reflect growth or loss of people. Wicker, under one much-discussed scenario, might be thrown into a race against fellow Republican Chip Pickering of the Third District, pitting the GOP’s two delegation members for the same seat.

Many dog fights in the Legislature will happen before anything’s decided after the count is official, but almost everyone is trying to figure out the likeliest and best options.

It’s important also for Mississippi to get a full population count because many programs are based on expenditures per person or per eligible person if economic criteria is involved.

The Census, required by the Constitution, will take most of 2000, and the counts for redistricting will be delivered in April 2001.

Some people inexplicably fear the census, but in fact it is one of the best friends a state, city or county can have. It helps define public policy and paints a demographic portrait that will be used for the next decade in hundreds of ways.