With the 2020 U.S. Census one year away, state officials are planning strategies to get more Utahns to participate.
Some Utah counties are considered hard to count areas and have the potential to be undercounted, according to data from the Census 2020 HTC map application developed by the City University of New York Mapping Service. Many expect that Utah and other states could see a greater likelihood of undercounting if a controversial citizenship question makes it into the survey.
Members of the state’s Complete Count Committee say they are working with community partners from underrepresented groups to help them educate more people about the importance of the census. The census, which takes place every 10 years, helps determine how much federal money and political representation Utah is alloted.
Evan Curtis, the state planning coordinator at the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget and the committee’s co-chairman, said the committee also plans to use social media this year to spread the word.
“Really what we want to do is make sure everyone knows that they matter,” Curtis said at a press conference Monday at the Salt Lake County Columbus library and senior center. “We want them to be counted.”
Utah is one of the fastest growing states in the country. The Beehive State gained about 400,000 people since the last census in 2010, said Mallory Bateman, the state data center coordinator at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, citing census estimates.
Utah is also becoming more diverse with an increase in residents who identify as Asian, black or African American and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, according to data from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.
“This is a really important for us since we’ve had a lot of change since 2010,” Bateman said.
One of the biggest challenges the Census Bureau has faced is reaching groups like college students, people of color, renters, immigrants and homeless people.
The Trump administration has pushed to include a question asking people whether they are U.S. citizens, leaving many worried that the question could alienate Latinos and immigrant communities, especially those who are not citizens. In an interview with NPR, Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham said that the agency believes the issue will be resolved in court.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments on April 23 on whether the question should stay in the survey. The court could make a decision by June.
On Monday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted that without the citizenship question, the census survey would be “meaningless and a waste” of the billions of dollars that it costs to put together.
Richard Jaramillo, president of the Utah Coalition of La Raza, a civil rights group, said he’s heard some say they fear that by answering that question on the census, they could be “putting a target on their backs.”
“Like the president’s own statisticians in the Census [Bureau] advised him, you will do more harm in the response rate than you’ll do good in the information-gathering with that question included.”
Next year will be the first time that people will have the option to answer the survey online. Postcards invitations to respond to the census will be mailed starting next March.