EVERETT — More than seven in 10 households in Snohomish County have already submitted their U.S. Census questionnaires, and those that haven’t can soon expect a knock on the door and persistent nudges to get theirs done.
At just shy of 71% Monday, Snohomish County has the fifth highest return rate among Washington’s 39 counties.
“Snohomish County has done phenomenally well,” said Toby Nelson, a local spokesman for the U.S. Census Bureau.
No city in the county or the state has had a better response than Brier at 86%.
Brier, with a population of 7,100, is just east of Mountlake Terrace. It also finds itself in the top 100 cities of more than 19,000 nationally in terms of getting back promptly to Uncle Sam. Sitting atop the national list is North River, North Dakota, which has a 100% return rate. It’s a town of a little more than 50 people.
Washington, at 67.7%, now ranks sixth nationwide in its response rate. The national number is 62.4%.
The Constitution requires a census every 10 years to determine the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives per state. Data also is used to distribute billions in federal dollars to local communities.
It’s an ambitious undertaking. There are 248 area Census Bureau offices nationwide to tally around 330 million people in more than 140 million housing units.
This is the first U.S. Census that will be completed largely online. So far about 87% of responses in Washington have been done via computer with the other 13% through traditional paper questionnaires or calls to a toll free line. The old options remain important alternatives and there are no plans to retire them, Nelson said.
The reality is many people in the county don’t have internet access. From 2014 to 2018, 8.5% of county households had either no home internet subscription or dial-up only, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. With libraries and other outlets closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, internet access has been even more difficult to find for some families.
Census officials in the state have not noticed a dramatic change in the response rate because of the coronavirus. It actually might have led more families to submit earlier because they were largely stuck at home and completing the Census was something to cross off to-do lists.
Response rates tend to be greatest in and around large cities, Nelson said. That’s in part due to the number of social and faith-based groups, nonprofits and government agencies making a point to promote participation.
“The farther out you get, the lower you tend to go,” Nelson said.
That holds true in parts of rural Snohomish County. For instance, less than half the households in Darrington and Gold Bar have sent in their Census forms.
Come Thursday, the Census Bureau will begin going door to door in Snohomish County in search of responses. Most census takers are hired from local communities.
If no one is home when they stop by, census takers will leave a notice of their visit with information about how to respond online, by phone or by mail.
By law, the Census Bureau cannot release identifiable information about individuals, households or businesses — even to law enforcement agencies. There’s no citizenship question on the form.
Households can still respond by completing and mailing back the paper questionnaire they received, by responding online at 2020census.gov, or by phone at 844-330-2020. Households can also respond online or by phone in one of 13 languages and find assistance in many more.
Eric Stevick: firstname.lastname@example.org.