HomeNewsSmall Towns in Georgia Lead Census Appeals After Receiving Inaccurate Counts

Small Towns in Georgia Lead Census Appeals After Receiving Inaccurate Counts

by Quentin Blount
Photo by Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The small town of Chester, Georgia, had a scare when they found out that the 2020 census only counted them for 525 people.

Not everyone understands just how important the U.S. census really is. But officials in one Georgia small town sure do. They have filed appeals to get an updated count of their population. As it currently stands, the 2020 census has them down for 525 people, but City Clerk Melanie McCook told the AP News that city officials believe that number should be more than tripled.

“I said, ‘Whoa, that’s not right,'” she said. “The first thing I thought is, ‘This is going to affect our revenues greatly.'”

A similar situation unfolded in White County. The 2020 census counted just over 28,000 residents. However, a census bureau estimate from the year before estimated their population at more than 30,000.

The misinformation is cause for concern for John Sell, the director of White County’s community and economic development.

“We are concerned about long-term impacts, not qualifying for grants, not getting as many dollars as we need for our schools, those kinds of opportunities that come when the census count is used.”

That’s a very solid concern to have. The U.S. census is about much more than just counting a city’s population and households. As a matter of fact, the census provides the foundation for reapportioning congressional seats, redistricting, and distributing billions in federal funds every year to states, counties, and local communities. All of that funding — or lack thereof — impacts housing, education, transportation, employment, health care, and public policy.

Prisons, College Dorms, Nursing Homes, Military Barracks Among Hardest Places for Census to Count

As you can probably imagine, it’s not easy to get everyone to participate in the census, despite it being a once-in-a-decade ordeal. Some of the hardest places to get an accurate count include prisons, college dorms, nursing homes, and military barracks.

Stan Dansby, the city manager in Glennville, believes that their census count of 3,834 people needs to be recounted. There were more than 5,000 people living there in 2019. Not only that, but he believes that the 1,500 inmates at Smith State Prison didn’t get counted.

“It’s not that they did anything wrong. It was just an oversight. You had to take into account we had COVID and people weren’t allowed in or out.”

Going back to Melanie McCook, the Chester City Clerk, she says that everyone is kind of scrambling to figure out how to adjust to the lower budgets as they wait for an update.

“It was a budgeting nightmare for me. I have no idea when this will be straightened out. We are kind of, for the time being, only spending money on the necessities, stuff that you absolutely have to have. We are hoping it will be resolved before we have to make any major budget cuts.”