South Carolina, we owe the entire state of Ohio an apology.
And not for that football game.
For years we’ve blamed the Buckeye State for all our ills — traffic, suburban sprawl and, on occasion, even flooding. If someone cuts us off on Coleman Boulevard, argues that 57 degrees isn’t cold or even mispronounces “Vanderhorst,” we always say the same thing: Go back to Ohio.
But, turns out, folks from Ohio aren’t our biggest problem. They’re only 10th.
Emily Williams recently reported that South Carolina is the country’s sixth-fastest growing state, and that’s mostly because of inward migration from … North Carolina (No. 1), Georgia (No. 2) and Florida (No. 3).
Which makes sense, seeing as how half of Charlotte has moved to York County. But truth is, in the past year, even Connecticut (No. 8) and Virginia (No. 9) have sent us more transplants than Columbus and Cleveland.
The silver lining is all these new residents — wherever they’re from — are about to come in real handy, because it’s time for the new census.
Every 10 years, the Constitution mandates we count everyone in the country, ostensibly to reapportion congressional seats and make the government more representative. Which does nothing to improve that situation where 40 million Californians get two senators, same as the 600,000 residents of Wyoming. But that’s another story.
The more immediate benefit, and the reason public officials are urging our participation in the count, is that census numbers have a direct correlation to federal dollars. The more people we have, the bigger slice of the pie we get when Congress doles out $675 billion annually for highways, education and health care.
All of which are underfunded in South Carolina.
Last summer, Gov. Henry McMaster assembled a “complete count committee” that is raising awareness for the census and helping the bureau find people — a task he made somewhat easier by putting nearly everyone in the state on the board.
But he has good reason.
“This is critically important because we won’t do it again for 10 years, so we’ve got to get it right this time,” McMaster said. “We want to find out where we are, who we are, and we want to be sure that our representation and strength is felt.”
The governor would like to see South Carolina pick up another seat in Congress, as we did in 2010, but that’s a long shot. Texas and Florida are more likely to gain multiple seats.
But knowing more about our population is useful in any number of ways. For instance, the count will likely help the Legislature re-gerrymander the 1st District for Republicans. So there’s that.
This is not only important for the state, but local governments, too. The city of Charleston uses census numbers in its Planning Department, and to leverage grant money — money we would otherwise pay in property taxes.
Philip Overcash, a senior planner for Charleston, says most studies suggest the city loses about $1,000 a year for every person missed in the count. And those numbers are used for a decade, so that can add up to serious money.
Since this is South Carolina, some people will likely be shy about participating. No doubt some “experts” on Facebook will contend the census is part of some “gubmint” conspiracy. Newsflash: Not filling out a survey doesn’t mean they can’t find you, it only hurts our bottom line.
In the coming weeks, the Census Bureau will mail out postcards telling everyone how to fill out their surveys online. Doing that will not only mean cash for the state and local governments, it will avoid the inconvenience of having pollsters show up at the front door.
Who knows, it might even give South Carolina more of a voice in Washington.
After all, most experts predict that Illinois, Michigan, New York, West Virginia — and yes, even Ohio — will lose seats in Congress as a result of declining population.
Maybe one of those transplants will end up here. Based on census numbers, just about everyone else does.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com.