The Census Bureau’s map puts the response rate at a mere 47 percent for Williams County and 32 percent for McKenzie. Those numbers, however, may reflect an artificially low response rate, due to how the numbers are calculated.
“One of the things that goes into calculating the response rate is the number of addresses that received the Census,” Lindsey Harriman, communications specialist for Williams County explains.
Those addresses are all assumed to have been occupied — but with a pandemic induced downturn in oil and gas, some of those residences may not have been occupied after all.
The Census Bureau will work with apartment managers and landlords to determine if someone lived at the location on or before April 1, but the addresses don’t get removed from the tracking map.
“We’ve had a lot of layoffs due to oil prices and the impact of COVID-19,” Harriman said.
That makes the response rate appear much lower than it likely really is.
Another unknown, Harriman said, is how quickly the map is being updated with responses where individuals didn’t have or didn’t use their Census ID.
All of the non-ID responses have to be matched to their corresponding addresses by hand.
“In North Dakota, we had a huge messaging push that it doesn’t matter if you have your ID or not, just fill it out,” Harriman said. “We might have caused a lot more work for them and so, because of (these factors) we don’t really know how true a reflection that response rate is for our area.”
Harriman said the county is not slowing down its messaging for the census, particularly as the Trump administration has decided that the deadline for the complete count will be September 30, rather than Oct. 31.
The Complete Count Committee was present at the Chokecherry Festival, Harriman said, and did get several more people to fill out the census. They will be announcing the third in a series of four $1,000 prizes being given out to people who complete the census. The last prize opportunity will be during the Art Fest, currently set for Sept. 19.
“It’s very important that people complete the census,” Harriman said. “It’s important for the community to have correct numbers. This will go into redistricting our state’s legislative districts and we want the count to accurately reflect our community.”
In addition to legislative boundaries, data from the Census is used to divide billions in federal funding for a variety of services provided at state and local levels.