Like every other state in the nation, New Mexico relies on the census to determine our political representation in national and state offices and to receive federal funding to support social, educational, health, and economic programs.
In other words, the federal government uses these population numbers to determine how much money and political representation each state needs and deserves.
While counting every resident may seem like a simple feat, our state was dealt a tough hand to achieve a complete count in 2020. New Mexico has historically been the hardest state to count in the nation. With a high number of individuals in rural and tribal communities, who receive their mail at post office boxes or who have limited internet access, reaching and counting New Mexicans has been a difficult task from the onset.
That count was made all the more difficult when last week President Trump and the U.S. Census Bureau announced they were shortening the window of opportunity to respond by an entire month. We now only have until Sept. 30 to stand up and be counted.
Many will argue, and I agree, that abbreviating the time line is a direct attempt to discourage participation and intentionally undercount places like New Mexico. Unfortunately, even the census has become political. And it has come at a significant cost.
At current response rates New Mexico is leaving billions of dollars on the table. Billions of dollars that will go to health care, roads and economic recovery efforts that will instead go to places like Texas, Colorado and Arizona.
But in my experience, the people of New Mexico are not ones to count out, and the resiliency of New Mexico’s people is not something to be questioned — not ever. New Mexicans deserve to be counted. We deserve to be represented and making the process a little shorter will only strengthen our resolve. Not suppress it.
We may have a tough road ahead to obtain a fair and complete count but remember, an accurate census has one critical factor —you. The stakes have never been higher and New Mexico residents have what it takes to make sure our voice is heard.
In a time of global pandemic critical response and recovery funds will likely be allocated by census data. A person missed in the 2020 Census may mean one less vaccine, one less hospital bed, one less computer for remote learning.
So count your household today! Not only because it’s your civic duty but also because our state’s health care, schools, roads, public safety and economic well-being depend on a complete count.
And if you’ve already completed your census, thank you! Now take a few minutes to call, text or email your family and friends and encourage them to join you in making sure New Mexico is counted — not counted out.
Go to 2020Census.gov, call (844) 330-2020 or mail your form back in.
(Sen. Liz Stefanics represents New Mexico State Senate District 39 — Santa Fe, Lincoln, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Valencia and Bernalillo counties.)
Sen. Liz Stefanics, guest columnist
Elizabeth "Liz" Stefanics, a Democrat, has been the District 39 representative for Valencia County in the New Mexico Legislature since 2017. She is a consultant.