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EDITORIAL: Send in your census form, be counted

A lament heard often on Long Island is that we don't get our fair share back from Washington. Now's your chance to do something about it.

This week a 2010 census questionnaire will arrive in each of 120 million mailboxes across the country, including about 1 million here on the Island. Take 10 minutes. Answer 10 simple questions. Mail it back to the Census Bureau. An accurate census - the constitutionally mandated once-a-decade attempt to count every person living in the country - is the best way to ensure that Long Island gets its due.

It will determine how many representatives New York will have in Congress. And the 2010 count will also help determine how $400 billion a year is distributed to states and local governments for things like schools, roads and health care. In a recent year, census data drove $3 billion to Long Island.

Critical to the effort is participation by racial minorities; immigrants, regardless of legal status; and the poor - groups that are often suspicious when the government comes around asking questions. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share information that identifies you with anyone, including other federal agencies, like immigration and law enforcement.

If you don't return a completed questionnaire, a census worker will visit your household between May and July. So save the trouble and mail it back. As civic duties go, participating in the census is quick, easy and important. Just do it. hN