Print version: Quinn makes push for strong Census showing

Brian Feldt

If you haven't filled out a U.S. Census form yet, you could be costing the already cash-strapped state of Illinois $2,000 per year.

Multiply that by 10 years - the next time the census rolls around - and not filling out the federal form could cost the state more than $20,000 per person.

Those stats are touted by the League of Women Voters of Illinois, who could come knocking later this month if you are part of the 27 percent of Illinoisans who have yet to fill out the decennial U.S. Census.

Gov. Pat Quinn, flanked by several groups including the league, urged Illinoisans Tuesday to fill out and turn in Census forms as the state begins its final push to being counted.

As of Tuesday, Illinois had returned 73 percent of its forms, which ranked sixth in the nation among states.  The mark also ties the amount turned in during the 2000 census.

But Quinn doesn't want to settle for three-quarters of the state, especially considering the stakes.

"We don't have a person to lose in Illinois. We have to know the exact count," Quinn said at a Statehouse news conference. "This is a very important financial issue to the people of our state."

Census data, which is collected every 10 years, is used to determine the number of congressional seats a state gets and how much money state and local governments receive from the federal government.

The data also helps make decisions about what services are offered in which cities.

Illinois is already expected to lose one if its congressional seats because of sluggish population growth. Missing out on a pot of more than $400 billion in federal money would add insult to injury, said Mary Schaafsma, a census manager with the league.

"The census, on the face of it, doesn't sound that interesting or that important; but, in fact, it is," she said. "When seniors are (in Springfield), students are down here and human and social service providers are talking to legislators about important state funding ... every one of those categories is impacted by making sure that Illinois is fully counted."

Illinois sits 4 percentage points above the national return rate average of 69 percent. It joins North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee as the only states to meet or surpass their 2000 return rate.

But despite the statewide success, some GateHouse Media-area county numbers are slumping.

As of Tuesday, Sangamon County is down 1 percentage point from 2000's return rate of 79 percent. Peoria County has returned 76 percent of its forms, down 3 percentage points from 2000's rate. Winnebago County, meanwhile, trails its 2000 rate of 78 percent by 1 percentage point.

Brian Feldt can be reached at 217-782-6292.

Learn more about the state's census efforts at