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Only about one-third of West Virginia households have responded to the 2020 census so far. The census is needed to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and to distribute money for programs that are based on population.

West Virginians say they want their voices heard in national affairs, yet they are ignoring the best way of accomplishing that.

Only a little more than one in three households in West Virginia had responded to the 2020 census by last week, a response rate far below the national average, according to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

As of April 15, 37.8% of households in the state had responded, the second-lowest rate among all states, with only Alaska ranking below West Virginia. The national average was 49.4%.

Boone County was even worse, at 32.3%, while the southern portion of the state that makes up the 3rd Congressional District averaged even worse than that, 28.8%.

The Legislature will use the census to draw new district lines for the House of Delegates and the State Senate. That process will occur next year, with the new district lines to take effect in the 2022 elections.

The census takes place every 10 years as required by the Constitution so seats in the House of Representatives can be apportioned to the states according to population. This also comes into play in presidential elections, where each House seat is worth one vote in the Electoral College.

A state’s voice in national affairs can be diminished if too many people ignore the census.

The census is used for other purposes, too.

“Federal funding to state and local communities, congressional representation, economic development grants, business recruitment, rural broadband investment, health centers, fire departments, Medicaid, highways and a number of other programs depend on accurate counting of people within our state. I cannot over-emphasize how important the process is — there is a lot at stake for West Virginia,” West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner said in a statement issued this month.

Warner noted that completing the census is required by law.

“If you do not respond, the U.S. Census Bureau will follow up in person to collect your response,” he said.

If you haven’t responded to the census yet, please do so.

The online form at www.census.gov is simple and takes only a few minutes. It asks a few questions — nothing like the detailed and arduous long form that some families received in the 2000 census.

The Census Bureau may have erred in emphasizing online questionnaires over printed ones. While doing the headcount online is easier for the bureau, many people have limited high-speed internet access.

The bureau is mailing forms this month to people who have not responded online. Or you can call 800-330-2020 to respond by phone.

Every state needs every person to be counted.

When your fill out your form, count anyone — related or unrelated to you — who lives and sleeps at your home most of the time. Count roommates, young children, newborns and anyone who is renting a space in your home. If someone is staying in your home on April 1 and has no usual home elsewhere, you should count that person.

Again, if you haven’t responded, please do so. Your state and your community need your cooperation.