On Thursday, Jan. 14, the Guilderland Public Library hosted Assemblyman John J. McEneny D-Albany, who spoke about his experiences as census director in 1980 and about the importance of the upcoming 2010 census.
At the talk, McEneny said the purpose of the census is the same today as it was when the first census was taken in 1790 to determine the population of the states.
After the failed attempt to exist as a confederacy, relatively autonomously under the Articles of Confederation, the 13 original states made the decision in 1789 to form a union.
Among the most contentious issues of the time was deciding the amount of representation each state would have in the national legislature. Smaller states, such as Delaware and Rhode Island, wanted to have each state allotted equal representation, however, larger states then New York and Virginia " wanted to have representation in the legislature determined by population.
In the end, there was a compromise, known as the Connecticut Compromise. Under the compromise, the national legislature would be divided up into two houses, the upper house, known as the Senate, and the lower house, known as the House of Representatives.
In the Senate, representation is equal among all states, large and small. In the House of Representatives, representation is based upon population. The first-ever census was commissioned in 1790 to determine the amount of representatives each state would get in the House.
Since then a new census was commissioned every 10 years, with the 2010 census being the 23rd decennial census.
Today, the census is used by the federal government to not only determine representation, but also to determine the amount of funding states will receive from the federal government. States and local governments also use the census to determine representation, and the allotment of resources.
Barbara Nichols Randall, director of the Guilderland Public Library, said the census has importance even on the most local level.