Gov. Tim Walz wants the U.S. Census Bureau to reconsider its decision to pull census takers from the field at the end of the month.
The governor wrote a letter to the Census Bureau this week, asking that it continue its data collection in the field until Oct. 31, like it had planned to do in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of ending it on Sept. 30, as it announced it would in early August.
“By your own calculations made when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Oct. 31 date is crucial for the Census Bureau to be able to meet its constitutional obligation and do so in a way that does not jeopardize the public health,” Walz wrote in the letter. “As our state works to recover and rebuild in the eventual wake of the pandemic and the economic crisis it has spawned, having a complete and accurate count of all those living in Minnesota is critical to properly directing the resources we need to return to prosperity.”
Getting a complete count of everyone who lives in Minnesota is important, especially this year when Minnesota could lose one of its congressional seats to a state with a growing population. Not getting a complete count of people living in Minnesota could also reduce how much federal funding the state gets.
Census takers have been in Minnesota following up with households who have yet to fill out their census, but field operations, where they go door-to-door to make sure everyone is counted, will end Sept. 30, which is a month earlier than what the Census Bureau had said earlier this year.
"Your recent announcement calls into question how millions of Americans who have yet to fill out their 2020 Census will be counted. It is surprising to hear how optimistic the Census Bureau is about being able to reach 100% in less than three weeks, given that as of the writing of this letter, non-response follow-up (NRFU) completion rate of only 75% in the Duluth Area Census Office and troubling rate of only 7% self-response rate on Red Lake Reservation," Walz wrote.
As of Sept. 15, the Census Bureau said more than 92% of housing units have been accounted for in the 2020 Census – 26.6% were counted by census takers and other field data collection operations, and 65.9% of housing units responding online, by phone or by mail.
Minnesota has a history of being No. 1 in the U.S. in the self-response phase of the census, but it was in 12th place in total response as of Aug. 31, officials said at the time.
According to Census Bureau data that's updated weekly, census workers have completed 84.8% of their nonresponse follow-up operation in the northern two-thirds of the state (the Duluth Area Census Office), 93.7% of their follow-up work in the Twin Cities metro (the Minneapolis Area Census Office), and 83.8% of their work in the southern third of the state (the Rochester Area Census Office).
“In Minnesota, we know that everyone counts and everyone matters – which is why we often lead the nation in Census response rates every decade,” Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said in a statement. “But we’re not at 100% yet. Ending the 2020 Census response period early puts us at risk of an undercount, especially of Black communities, Native American communities, and communities of color, immigrants and refugees, renters, and children under five. At a time when resources and representation are critically important, we can’t afford to miss anyone. We need to tell the full story of Minnesota.”
If you haven't filled out your census, you can do so by visiting my2020census.gov or calling 1-844-330-2020. You can also text questions to 662020. Hennepin County's census website has other resources.