Census deadline set at Oct. 5, but Summit County officials worry it’s not enough time
KEYSTONE — Summit County residents will have until Monday, Oct. 5, to complete the 2020 census survey, according to an announcement from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Once every 10 years, the bureau collects citizen data, which helps inform governments, industries and communities about population demographics. Summit County’s current self-response rate is only 28%. However, that number should be taken with a grain of salt, county spokesperson Julie Sutor said.
“They’re lumping in second homes with primary residences when they provide that self-response rate,” she said. “In a sense, we’re getting dinged for having a lot of vacation homes. So I don’t, in any way, see our low self-response rate as a reflection of the level of civic engagement of the people of Summit County.”
Sutor said it would be more accurate to look at the county’s total response rate, which the bureau does not share publicly on the county level. Colorado’s total response rate is 98%, bureau spokesperson Bianca Gámez wrote in an email.
However, it does share nonresponse follow-up completion rates, which reflects the number of households that the bureau’s team successfully contacted. According to the website, the total completion percentage for northern Colorado is 98%.
The number of second-home owners in the county has traditionally impacted census response data. In 2010, Summit County had a 21% response rate. However, when second homes are taken into account, the real response rate was around 72%.
The final deadline for the 2020 census has been a point of confusion throughout the entire process. The original deadline for the census was Oct. 31, which Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross later changed to Sept. 30.
After a number of groups sued the government — claiming the Sept. 30 deadline did not give enough time to accurately count minority groups — a judge issued an injunction that allowed for census operations to once again go through Oct. 31, according to reporting by CNN.
However, the bureau decided on the Oct. 5 date because the injunction simply suspended the Sept. 30 deadline and did not require an Oct. 31 deadline, according to reporting by The Associated Press. The political back-and-forth surrounding the final deadline directly impacts Summit County’s ability to get an accurate count, Sutor said.
Because of Summit County’s high population of second-home owners, it takes bureau staff longer to determine which homes actually have permanent residents, Sutor said.
“We’re still really outraged, frankly, that the Census Bureau has not taken the time it needs to count everyone in our community,” she said.
The data collected through the census is used to make decisions that directly impact people’s lives.
“There are three main reasons in the big picture why it’s really important for all Summit County residents to respond to the census,” Sutor said. “That’s representation in government, demographic data about our community and federal funding for programs that support our quality of life here in Summit County.”
Congress uses the census data to determine how many seats in the house of representatives are allocated for each state. Colorado could receive an additional congressional seat with the new census count, according to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs website.
The census also is used for redistricting, which is the process of determining legislative districts based on the population of a certain area. In 2018, Colorado voters approved a ballot measure that changes the process for redistricting. Now, a committee made of members of the public will determine congressional districts with input of everyday Coloradans, according to reporting by The Colorado Sun.
With the possible additional congressional seat, the redistricting process will be even more important for Colorado, as it could gain an entirely new district.
Aside from state and federal programs, Summit County’s local government has many uses for the census, Sutor said.
“On any given day, at least one county department is using census data as part of the work they do,” she said.
Sutor said the county uses census data when planning developments in the community. It also uses the data to inform decisions about funding for various programs and projects throughout the community.
“When we apply for grants, we have to include demographic information,” she said. “When we’re applying for state or federal grants or private grants from foundations, we’re using census data to say these are the number of people who live here; these are the characteristics of our population; here’s why you should put funding into our community.”
It isn’t just governments that use the data, either. Nearly every industry has a use for the data, from businesses to nonprofits.
“The private sector makes tremendous use of census data as well in its decisions about the products they make or sell in creating its business plans,” Sutor said.
People can respond to the 2020 census online, over the phone and through mail.
- To respond on online, visit My2020Census.gov and click “start questionnaire.” The website will ask for a Census ID. If you don’t have one, click the link below the space for the ID number.
- Those who received a survey in the mail can respond by sending the completed survey to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1201 E. 10th St., Jeffersonville, IN.
- To respond by phone, call 844-330-2020 for English and 844-468-2020 for Spanish.
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