Election Glossary

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The United States Census

A census is a count of a population in a given time or place. The United States census is held every ten years and is conducted by the United States Census Bureau.  Since 1930, the census has consistently been on April 1, with the most recent one taking place in 2010. At the time of last counting, the total population was 308,745,538.

The census has special significance in the United States, as it is used to determine how many seats each state receives in the House of Representatives. There are 435 fixed seats, which can be reallocated depending on the population of a state.  Sparsely populated states such as Wyoming have only one, while California has the most at 53.

The Census Bureau ensures the confidentiality of the respondents. It is forbidden by law to reveal information about any person or business, even in regards to illegal immigrants. The records are also sealed from public viewing for 72 years, with the most recent one being available from 1940. 

See also: Constituency , Bill of Rights

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