With the intervention of the court system, the U.S. Census deadline has been extended to Oct. 31, giving Montana the chance to count 100% of its residents and, with any luck, obtain a second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. On Sept. 24, a U.S. District Court judge ordered the U.S. Census Bureau to continue its 2020 operations through Oct. 31. That’s great news for Montana because not all of this state’s residents have been counted. In Montana, where many residents get their mail at the Post Office rather than at their homes, Census workers have struggled to reach those rural addresses. This year, COVID-19 further undid the Census timeline, and now all Montana residents need to step up to the plate and make sure they are counted.
As of Oct. 1, the state’s “self response” rate — the rate of response of people who filled out their own forms and mailed them in, called the Census and self-reported or went online and completed the questionnaire — was hovering at 60.1%, compared to the national average of 66.6%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Including door-to-door counting by federal Census workers, the total number of Montana households counted so far is 96.6%, compared to the national average of 98.9 percent.
Census data is vital to Montana for a couple of huge reasons: 1. It determines the number of representatives the state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. Montana has only one representative, based on the 2010 Census figures. If Montana’s population is accurately counted in 2020, the state could gain another representative as it used to have before the 1990 Census. Census information reported last winter in The Wall Street Journal said that Montana’s population grew by nearly 80,000 between 2010 and 2019. This year’s Census is the state’s ability to confirm that projection.
Secondly, the amount of federal funding Montana receives is directly tied to its population. More people counted means more federal funding for school districts, county health programs, law enforcement, tribal governments and more.
The Census personnel do not have a count rate for Teton County based on door-to-door enumeration, but the county’s self-response rate is only 53%. That suggests that quite a few of us here have not yet been counted. Please, if you have already filled out your Census forms, call your friends and family and urge them to do so as well. If you haven’t been counted, please go online to www.my2020census.gov or call 1-844-330-2020. It’s vital for all Montanans to be counted. Don’t let the chance to gain a second U.S. representative slip away.