We’ve asked it before, and we’ll ask it again. Have you filled out your 2010 Census form and mailed it back?

We’ve asked it before, and we’ll ask it again. Have you filled out your 2010 Census form and mailed it back?

About 40 percent of us have so far in Eastern Jackson County. Yes, the Census Bureau already knows that. It is tracking the forms as they are returned, this year using something they’re calling the “participation rate,” rather than the “return rate”

The participation rate counts returns mailed back by households that received them. The return rate also counts forms that come back from the Postal Service as “undeliverable.” They made that change because of the high number of houses sitting vacant because of the bad economy and the housing bust.

So, based on the participation rate, about 34 percent of households in the nation have returned forms. Jackson County as a whole matches that rate, as does Oak Grove. Most of EJC is in the upper 30s, except for an area in Independence between Noland and Lee’s Summit Road, Interstate 70 and 35th Street, which is above 50 percent.

So, why do we care? Because the census numbers will be used for everything from redrawing the boundaries of legislative districts and determining if states gain or lose seats in Congress, to  how federal dollars are sent to communities for public projects like hospitals and bridges.

Some critics are out there saying the federal government doesn’t need to know anything other than how many people live in a household, but they’re criticizing an American instution that goes back to 1790, with the first census, which asked a lot more than how many people lived in the household.

This is an essential tool for getting a handle on how some 300 million Americans are distributed across the nation. So, thumbs up if you’ve already answered your 10 simple questions and sent your form back.