Most Minnesotans and Wisconsinites know that the census counts big time.

Their understanding shows in the numbers: The Gopher State ranks No. 1 in the U.S., and the Badger State No. 2, in participation so far in the 2020 Census.

As of Aug. 6, 72.4% of Minnesota and 69.7% of Wisconsin households had completed forms -- whether online, by mail or through in-person canvassing. That compares to the national average of 63.2%.

No surprise then that 12 of the 20 top counties nationwide are in our two states. Dakota County is tied for 14th at 80.2% while St. Croix County is 18th at 79.6%. Impressive.

Residents of Goodhue, Pierce and Pepin counties should view this as a challenge. They are at 76.9%, 72.7% and 68.9% respectively.

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The goal, of course, is 100% because so much rides on the population count every 10 years.

You see, the count determines boundaries for political representation. Minnesota, in particular, could lose a congressional seat.

Then there’s the federal per capita funding -- for everything from student loans and food stamps to energy assistance and highway construction. Each person counted means about $2,800 in federal funds to each state every year for 10 years, so an accurate count is critical -- especially given that the undercounted typically include young people, the elderly, indigenous people and other people of color, and people of lower incomes. Only when each of us is counted can we ensure that our home states get a fair share.

You may be thinking that it’s too late. It's not.

Unfortunately, the decade count started as COVID-19 began, but this also means people have more time than originally scheduled. The Census Bureau continues to gather data as quickly and safely as possible as the Sept. 30, 2020, statutory deadline nears. The latest push began Tuesday when the majority of census offices began follow-up contacts, according to 2020census.gov.

If you still have the form, complete and mail it in or follow the online instructions.

If you prefer to do so by phone, call 844-330-2020.

If you haven’t completed a census form, expect a visit and complete it in person.

You matter. You count. So please be counted.