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Pierce County leads in census responses again

By Staff | Aug 15, 2020

Submitted Art A map produced by the U.S. Census Bureau shows Pierce County leading in self-response rates in the northern tier of North Dakota. Pierce County ranks sixth overall in census self-responses. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Pierce County took first place among North Dakota counties for self-response rates to the 2010 United States Census, and it appears to be headed to the top for 2020 census responses as well.

Linda Svihovec of the North Dakota Association of Counties said her office and the North Dakota Department of Commerce’s census office have tracked the progress of all North Dakota counties as they help to count every household in the state.

The association’s website and social media pages feature a map of North Dakota counties showing Pierce County in sixth place for self-responses, behind such counties as Burleigh, Morton and Stutsman, but ahead of larger counties such as Ward and Grand Forks.

In 2010, Pierce County led the state with an 89% self-response rate. The county so far has a self-response rate of 67.9%.

“First of all, 67 percent is above the national average,” Svihovec said. “Pierce County is doing well overall as is the state. We have some counties in North Dakota and on tribal reservation land where the response rates are 30 percent and in that range.”

“With that being said, that leaves about 33 percent of the households in Pierce County that have not responded,” Svihovec noted.

“Because of the COVID, a lot of the operations of the U.S. Census Bureau were delayed, including a non-response follow-up, which just started in North Dakota on July 30,” Svihovec explained. “Typically, that would have started in mid-May or the beginning of June, so they’re just getting out there now.”

“Also, because of that, the timeframe has been condensed. It’s very short, it’s through September 30, so it’s really two months to have door-to-door enumerators trying to capture those households that have not responded.”

Svihovec said there is still time for Pierce County residents to respond to the census without having enumerators knock on their doors.

“As a state task force, we are encouraging people to go ahead and self-respond using the online website or the 800 phone number and get the census information filled out so the enumerators that are out working in the communities in North Dakota will only be having to track down those folks who don’t have access to the internet or who aren’t comfortable filling out the census online or who are confused by the 10 questions on the paper form.”

Census representatives visited Rugby Aug. 5 to help people having difficulty filling out their forms.

Some people having difficulty lacked ID numbers or other information necessary to log into the website, my2020census.gov.

“We’re encouraging people who don’t have their 12-digit ID number to use their residential address,” Svihovec said. “That’s an option on the website and it’s posted on the (North Dakota Association of Counties) Facebook page.”

Svihovec said people needing visits by census enumerators would be able to identify the workers.

“They’re going to have a badge, they’re going to have a tablet (computer) of some kind, they’re going to identify themselves, they’ll be wearing masks and they’ll stay (at least six feet away from respondents),” she said.

“I know people in my town who are just not going to respond until someone comes to their door, but they’ll also be leery about answering their door,” Svihovec added. “We want to get those people counted as well.”

Svihovec said every Pierce County resident counted translates to dollars in federal and state aid coming to their community.

“An alarming statistic was given to us by North Dakota Census Manager Kevin Iverson,” Svihovec said. “He did calculations of over $20,000 per person (received in the form of government services).”

“The average household in North Dakota statistically is 2.32 people. So, for each household that doesn’t respond, it’s $20,000 times 2.32, over a decade. So, if 10 percent of that 150,000 households don’t respond, and we use that average number, it’s $725,000,000 of potentially lost revenue that comes to North Dakota,” she noted. “So, it’s a big deal.”

Svihovec added, “When the final census numbers are published, the state by law is required to (redraw) legislative districts and keep them fairly even. So, what that could mean for our rural areas is they’re just going to get larger (in area), so to have representation in the legislature, where big decisions are made, like Operation Prairie Dog funding and social services costs and allocations. There’s a lot of money at stake and having fair representation,” she added. “If you have somebody representing six counties, that’s what the population requires, is your community really going to have good representation?”

“So, we are really encouraging rural communities to please, please respond,” Svihovec said.

“The other side of that is there are a lot of distributions that are based on population that come from the state and federal government. (Operation) Prairie Dog funding being one of them, cities were part of that,” Svihovec said. “Distribution is based on population. So, highway tax distributions are based on population (for example).”

“They’re all funds that are affected by how many people get counted, and you live with that for 10 years,” she said.

“If your community just drops the ball this time, you’re stuck with that for 10 years. There isn’t a good time to not respond to the census, because who can sacrifice those dollars for 10 years?” Svihovec asked.

Svihovec said the census bureau “has a tagline that says, ‘When’s the last time you made $20,000 in five minutes?'”

“Not ever in my life!” she added with a laugh.

Although Pierce County far outranks its neighbors in census self-response rates, other rural communities have done even better.

“We have a couple of really small towns in eastern North Dakota north of Fargo that have a 100 percent response,” Svihovec said. “Every single household in their county responded. Obviously, they made that a priority and promoted that as a community, and they were done (by early March). They just got on it.”

Svihovec added, “Cheers for Pierce County, they’re above the national average. Over the self-response period, Pierce County has been ahead of the national average and the North Dakota average from the beginning.”

“We encourage Pierce County to keep moving forward and if those 30 percent of households haven’t responded because they’re confused by the online portion or confused by the form, the enumerators are coming,” Svihovec said. “Don’t be fearful.”

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