The United States Supreme Court this week put the brakes on the census count. The court agreed with a Commerce Department request to end the count early.
For Daviess County that may not turn out to be a very big deal. Census officials report that 99.9% of the households in Daviess County have been counted. The numbers include 71.4% of Daviess County residents that self-reported by mail, online or by phone and 67.3% of those residents in Washington who also self-reported.
“The self-response was close to the state level,” said Tim Swarens with the Census Bureau. “The county response was a little above the state rate and the city response was a little below it.”
For local organizers the overall response of 99.9% is a win.
“That is great,” said Cindy Barber with the Purdue Extension Office who helped chair the census push with Daviess County Commissioner Tom McCracken. “We did a lot of work with our community partners on this and I think it really paid off. We worked with a lot of churches and organizations. There were the RSVP volunteers putting flyers in the food bags.”
One area that tended to be undercounted in past census was the number of children. Barber points out the local effort got involved with all area schools to get the word out.
“The schools really got involved,” said Barber. “And they used their social media to also help get the word out. Overall, we could not have done this without everyone’s involvement, partnership and cooperation.”
Like everything else in 2020, the census count was painted with the problems created by the coronavirus pandemic. The self-reporting part was not affected, but when it came time to send out the canvasing crews things became much different than a decade ago.
“The pandemic affected our timelines,” said Swarens. “Our crews were supposed to go into the field in May. That didn’t happen. In much of southern Indiana they got in late July and in August in the rest of the state. One thing it did do is extend the time where people could self-report and there were those who took advantage of that.”
It also affected the way the census takers approached their work. While they are always credentialed, they added face masks and distancing to their approach at homes. Trying to keep both the people at the doorstep and themselves safe.
“Everyone rallied in response to the COVID,” added Barber. “There is a lot of unity in this county when we face some kind of challenge and the pandemic provided a challenge. I think Daviess County has shown just how resilient of a community it is, but doing so well despite the pandemic.”
Another thing the pandemic did was quash any follow-up work. Officials say that census-takers often do checks with people who self-report to make certain they received accurate information. But because of COVID those did not happen this year.
With the count essentially over, it will still be awhile before the results are available.
“Right now, the statisticians are working on those responses,” said Swarens. “The next step will be to deliver the count to the White House. Then next year those numbers will be used for re-apportionment.”
One of the reasons the Trump Commerce Department wanted to conclude the census early was to get the numbers presented to his White House before the end of the year, rather than them going to the winner of the November election.
One of the things that will happen is that those numbers will be used to determine how many members each state will have in the United States House of Representatives.
Then those numbers will be provided to the states so that each congressional and legislative district can be redrawn. They even come down to county and city districts to make sure people are evenly represented.
After that those numbers will still be used to help determine how billions of dollars in state and federal funding will be distributed around the nation, including here in Daviess County.
“I feel like our local effort was outstanding,” said Barber. “I am very proud of how our partners worked with us to produce these results.”