Kentucky lawmakers hope to change how the U.S. census counts service members.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., along with Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky. and Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., introduced the Services Members and Communities Act of 2012 in both houses of Congress last week. The proposal would allow deployed service members to be counted in the communities in which their permanent duty station or home is located on the date of the census.

Under current policy, the U.S. Census Bureau automatically counts deployed service men and women at the address given at the time of enlistment. If sailors and some members of the Marine Corps are deployed on a U.S. naval vessel, the census counts them from their ship’s home port, which may not be the same city where those sailors and Marines were stationed.

According to Carter Hendricks, president of the Christian County Chamber of Commerce, this has led to an inaccurate count for communities surrounding military posts.

“As we were looking at the 2010 census, we recognized very quickly that we had about 10,000 soldiers deployed,” Hendricks said. “And most, if not all, of those soldiers were listed somewhere else. When we became aware of that issue, we started looking into it.”

Once the chamber recognized the disparity, Christian County officials, in partnership with the Clarksville Chamber of Commerce, lobbied to get the policy changed.

Sen. Paul heard about the issue and agreed that changes were needed.

“It’s been a longstanding policy,” Paul said. “It’s been a while since we’ve had so many soldiers deployed during a census. And this time it made quite a bit of difference because all of our soldiers that were overseas weren’t counted in Hopkinsville, and they were counted, I guess presumably, where they originally started their career or where they’re from.”

The inaccurate population count negatively affects communities surrounding military posts, both in terms of infrastructure and economically. Hendricks said the county has fewer resources to support military families. Additionally, population and demographics are key incentives for bringing businesses and industry to any area. Without a proper count of the population, communities could lose out on potential business recruitment.

“It’s an acute issue for military communities,” Hendricks said.

Sen. Paul is confident that the legislation, which has support from both parties, will pass without much difficulty. “The only people who might not be in favor of this would be people who have military bases that have very low taxation,” he said. “That would be the only possible hang up to this.”

Hendricks said that the ultimate goal has nothing to do with potential money or resources.

“The goal should be to get an accurate count,” he said.

REACH CARLA JIMENEZ at 270-887-3262

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