Why do we have a census?
To ensure fair and even representation in Congress..
Article 1, section 2, clause 3:
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand […provisions for the first congress…]
Why not just count votes?
Because non-voters need representation, too, and apportionment can’t just shift
In the American context, this means, paradoxically, enslaved people, who are “represented” by the population of their masters.
And it means some people–“Indians not Taxed”–are excluded.
Find any location in the US here:
In 1790, assistant marshals listed the name of each head of household, and asked the following questions:
In 1800, assistant marshals recorded the name of the county, parish, township, town, or city in which each family resided. Each family was listed by the name of the head of the household, and was asked the following questions:
Census continues to expand every year.
Census frontier line