Is Florida ready for the 2020 Census? It’s not an idle question. Across the nation, states are gearing up to count every man, woman and child within their borders in the constitutionally mandated, nationwide count that takes place once every 10 years. They understand how critical these tallies can be in divvying up federal dollars and political clout; after the 2000 census Florida picked up two congressional seats and added two more in 2010. If things go as expected, Florida could get two more in 2020, bringing the total to 29 seats. That second seat is close to being on the bubble, however, according to Virginia-based Election Data Services.

And things aren’t going as expected. To be ready on time, Florida should have started its planning already. But as our sister paper, The Daytona Beach News-Journal, reported, when they asked the Department of State, which has overseen the state’s census-taking in the past, about census preparation, they received an emailed reply: “This falls outside of the Florida Department of State’s purview.”

At least that department replied. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office never did, despite being contacted several times over two and a half months.

The Legislature’s silence is equally thundering. A bill that would have set up a “complete count” committee, similar to one already up and running in California, failed. There appears to be no mention — and thus, no funding — for census activities in the budget for the fiscal year that starts in July.

When state officials do talk about the census, they seem mostly focused on the question of whether the federal government should include a citizenship question on the forms. Nationally, Republicans have seized on this question as a totem for their general animosity toward illegal immigration, and some of Florida’s leaders have picked that thread.

That’s utterly bewildering: Citizenship questions have been shown to depress total counts, and that can only cost this state, particularly in money targeted for vulnerable seniors and families living in poverty. The simple act of counting people who live here, including an estimated 1 million undocumented immigrants, will convey no extra rights or privileges to anyone. It will simply say: These are the people who are here, driving on Florida’s roads, sending their children to Florida’s schools, showing up in hospital emergency rooms and finding places to live. That count should be as accurate as state officials can possibly make it.

The bigger challenge, however, is Florida’s apparent disinterest in preparing for the count at all. Where’s the outreach to those vulnerable populations who are least likely to return their mailed census forms, including seniors, legal immigrants and families living in poverty? Where is the preparation to train thousands of temporary census workers who will fan out across communities Pensacola to Pine Key?

To their credit, local municipal and school officials have started their own preparation. It’s time for DeSantis and other state officials to kick it into high gear.

An editorial from the Ocala Star-Banner.

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