Taking care of count requires locals’ help

Officials with the Census Bureau’s Denver regional office assured members of The Daily Sentinel editorial board Wednesday that they took seriously allegations of mismanagement in the Grand Junction local census office and reports of undercounting in this region.

“There were some concerns and we took action to address them,” Denver Regional Director Cathy L. Lacy said.

We would expect nothing less. And the local office appears to be running more smoothly now than it did initially.

A more pressing concern for everyone living on the Western Slope, all of which is served by the Grand Junction office, is that an accurate count be achieved.

The count is critical in redistricting for state legislative and U.S. congressional seats. It also has a significant economic impact. Lacy said each person counted translates into roughly $890 in federal money from a vast array of federal programs for which funding is based on population numbers.

The Daily Sentinel continues to receive complaints from individuals and neighborhoods about people not receiving census forms. In the past couple weeks, we have received more than 100 such complaints, said the Sentinel’s Gary Harmon, who has provided most of our census coverage.

Kathleen DuHamel, the woman who now heads the Grand Junction office of the Census Bureau, reports that her employees have also received complaints from people who said they did not receive their census forms. In some cases, those complaints involved dropped-off forms that were blown away by high winds or — our favorite — eaten by dogs.

In any event, the initial phase of the count, in which census forms were primarily mailed to known addresses or dropped off at locations without mail home delivery, has been completed. The follow-up, door-to-door count begins Saturday and is scheduled to be finished by early July.  That effort, census officials say, is critical to making sure people are counted who did not receive census forms or did not take the time to complete and return them.

Some 1,500 people have recently been trained to conduct that follow-up effort on the Western Slope, census officials said, but it will require the cooperation of those not yet counted to ensure the final numbers for this region are as accurate as they can be.

Will every single person be counted? No. As Lacy noted, when Thomas Jefferson turned over the results of the first census to President George Washington in 1790, “he said he believed there was an undercount.” And there have been concerns about undercounts every 10 years since then.

Also, with what is perhaps the largest non-military undertaking of our government — this year employing some 1.6 million people — it’s no surprise glitches occur.

What is a surprise is that a few people try to avoid being counted in an operation that means so much to their community.


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