Summit County gears up for census with hopes of improving 21% turnout from 2010 |

Summit County gears up for census with hopes of improving 21% turnout from 2010

The view Jan. 7 from the Ptarmigan Overlook in Silverthorne. Summit County officials are gearing up for the 2020 census, which aims to count every person living in the United States.
Liz Copan /

FRISCO — With 80 days to go before the census begins April 1, a major push is underway to get as many people in Summit County, and across the nation, to participate in the decennial count. The census is a national survey conducted every 10 years to count all people living in the United States, and Summit County has a particular interest in being properly counted this year, as the last census in 2010 yielded a paltry 21% turnout. 

Administration of the census is a Congressional function enshrined in the Constitution, both in Article I and in the 14th Amendment. Since 1790, the national undertaking has attempted to county every person living in the United States to apportion congressional representation among the states. 

That task is critical, as it goes to the very core of democracy: the concept of one person, one vote — ensuring every human living in America is represented and has a say in who represents them in government and how their tax dollars are used. Each of the nation’s 435 congressional districts represent about 710,000 people, based on numbers from the last official census in 2010.

At the moment, Colorado has nine congressional delegates in Congress: seven representatives in the House and two senators. But if statistical forecasts hold true, Colorado might significantly increase its representation by gaining a seat in Congress when the 2020 census is tallied. That means a new district formed as a result of redistricting, which could significantly alter political representation in the state.

Laurie Cipriano, a media specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau, emphasized that there is much at stake for a community like Summit County to be properly counted in the census.

“You want to make sure that the community is not undercounted, because if it’s undercounted, you miss out on federal funds,” Cipriano said. “The federal government doles out $675 billion to local communities based on census representation.”

Colorado receives $13 billion of that allotment annually, and Summit County gets millions for a variety of programs and grants.

Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence, who heads the county’s Complete Count Committee aiming to increase Summit’s census participation, said those federal funds go a long way to maintaining the integrity of the county’s safety net programs.

“There are millions of dollars left on the table if we’re not counted,” Lawrence said. “It funds many programs at health and human services that people rely on.”

Lawrence said the census’ main purpose, to ensure fair representation, was also of high import to Summit County and the mountain communities residing within its boundaries.

“We need our representation in Washington,” Lawrence said. “That means for all of Colorado. We are a diverse state with diverse needs.”

To help Summit County gets as much representation as possible in this year’s census, Lawrence said the county had been awarded a grant of $55,000 from the federal government to help with outreach efforts. That includes locally printing and mailing census reminders and instruction cards to every P.O. box attached to a physical residence, something the Census Bureau does not do.

Aside from snail mail and phone, U.S. residents outside of Puerto Rico will be able to respond to the census online for the first time. The ability to respond on the internet has been touted by the U.S. Census Bureau as being more efficient, cost-effective and “green” by eliminating paper. 

Cipriano also said online responses to the census are assured to be safe and confidential, with security and layers of authentication she said were more robust than those of many financial institutions.

Additional info from the U.S. Census Bureau

Who to count

If you are filling out the census for your home, you should count everyone who is living there as of April 1, 2020. This includes everyone who is living and sleeping there most of the time. If someone is staying in your home on April 1 and has no usual home elsewhere, you should count them on your 2020 Census.

Census Timeline

In mid-March, homes across the country will begin receiving invitations to complete the 2020 Census. Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail. For more information about how the 2020 Census will invite everyone to respond and what to expect in the mail, see this infographic.


Responding to the 2020 Census will be easy for everyone to participate in.  For the first time, you can choose to respond online, by phone, by mail or when a census taker arrives at your door.

  • All online responses are encrypted.
  • All IT systems are certified and accredited in accordance with federal IT security requirements.
  • Most people will receive a letter inviting them to go online and complete the census form.
  • If your area has low internet access, we’ll mail you a form in March at the beginning of the census.
  • If your area has non-city-style addresses, such as rural route numbers, we’ll deliver a form to your door in person.
    • Almost 5 percent of households will receive their census invitation when a census taker drops it off.
  • If your area is more remote, we’ll send a census taker to take your response in person.
    • Less than 1 percent of households will be counted in person by a census taker, instead of being invited to respond on their own.
  • Anyone can call our toll-free number and respond by phone.
  • Many communities may organize local efforts to help their residents respond, such as providing help at libraries and other community centers.
  • We’ll provide the online questionnaire in 12 non-English languages. We’ll also make help available by phone in those same languages.
    • The 12 non-English languages are Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese and Japanese. (The online questionnaire will be available in simplified Chinese; the over-the-phone help will be available in Mandarin and Cantonese.)

Cipriano added that the Census Bureau is always looking for workers in the High Country, which has a very low unemployment rate. With April approaching the end of the high season, it might be an opportunity for residents looking to make extra money on the side. Census jobs pay $16 an hour in Summit and provide work-from-home opportunities.

To learn more about the 2020 census, visit

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