W.Va. must find way to increase participation

Most West Virginians are familiar with the warning about not cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. We draw that advice to the attention of those who show dislike and distrust of government by not participating in the Census.

It means that we should avoid actions intended to harm others but which may hurt us, too.

So it is with the Census, which must by law be conducted every 10 years.

Here in West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice has established the Complete Count Commission in an attempt to ensure that each and every resident of the Mountain State is counted during the 2020 Census. That is important for various reasons, as we have pointed out previously.

Among them is that if the Census count of West Virginians is too low, we may lose one of our three members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In addition, many federal programs rely on population counts in municipalities, counties and states. Bottom line: The fewer people we have, as recorded by the Census, the less federal funding we receive.

During their meeting Wednesday, members of the governor’s commission discussed how to proceed. A first step was setting up committees to deal with various aspects of the challenge.

One of those committees is on minority affairs. Committee member Jill Upson, who also is executive director of the state’s Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs, told MetroNews that, “Minorities, specifically people of color, have traditionally had a distrust of government entities. Educating those with such a dislike of government about the importance of participating in the Census — and about the agency’s excellent record of keeping private information confidential — is important, Upson said.

But she misses an important point here in West Virginia. More than a few analysts have noted that many people — regardless of race — who live in Appalachia exhibit higher mistrust of government than those in most other regions.

Finding some way of increasing Census participation by West Virginians — all of us — is critical. Members of Justice’s commission simply must find a way to solve that puzzle.


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