Opinion

Commentary: Our Constitution says it's time to stand up and be counted

The United States Census is in the Constitution — just like the Bill of Rights. The Constitution says the census shall be conducted every 10 years. The first was August 2, 1790. The estimated population of the country was 3,929,214.

Americans have been debating who should be counted ever since. The Constitution originally mandated counting slaves as three-fifths of a person although slave-owning states deemed slaves property, not persons. Indians were not included in the official count until 1840, and then only those who had renounced tribal life.

The question of whether non-citizens should be counted is under debate right now. Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana, has introduced a bill that would require the government to count only citizens when reapportioning Congress. The Constitution now mandates a count based on "the whole number of persons in each state."

Gold-rush era Alaska censuses demonstrate many sourdoughs didn't bother with citizenship after immigrating to the United States. They are listed like the rest of their neighbors with the word "no" in questions that ask about their naturalization.

The 1930 Alaska census is quirky in one respect. Census takers began their work Oct. 1, 1929 -- months before the rest of the nation. This means a number of people counted on the rolls were dead before 1930 began. Aviator Carl Ben Eielson, killed in Siberia crash Nov. 9, 1929, is the most striking example. The 1930 census has him residing in Fairbanks.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Anchorage Daily News.

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