Okanogan County — rural, with a high proportion of renters and low-income households — is considered hard to count by the U.S. Census Bureau, and the county’s lackluster response rate is living up to that reputation.
While overall, Washington state residents have been diligent in completing their census questionnaire — the state is tied for second place with Wisconsin, at a 70.7% response rate as of Aug. 23 — Okanogan County is near the bottom of the list, at 41.5%. Only Ferry and Pacific counties lag behind.
The state’s healthy response rate is driven by populous, mainly urban, counties, led by Clark and King counties, where about 75% of residents completed the questionnaire.
All census forms are due Sept. 30.
To fill out the questionnaire online, go to https://www.my2020census.gov. If you received a census ID in the mail, enter that; otherwise, you can answer using your street address. If you have a paper form, you can mail it in.
To complete the census by phone, call (844) 330-2020.
Okanogan County residents could be excused for thinking they have more time. The U.S. Census Bureau had extended the deadline through the end of October because of the coronavirus pandemic, but earlier this month the director of the Census Bureau abruptly shortened the timeline, ending the count on Sept. 30.
Groups that rely on an accurate tally raised the alarm that the county’s residents could be shortchanged in money for government housing, health and nutrition services, and business and job opportunities. The census count is also the basis for political representation, including drawing election districts. Money for roads and bridges is allocated based on population. The Federal Emergency Management Agency uses population data to draw maps for evacuations and other emergency assistance.
The census asks nine questions about each person living in a household on April 1, including name, date of birth, and relationship to others in the household. The census doesn’t ask about citizenship, financial information or political views.
A complete count of everyone living in the United States is required by the U.S. Constitution every 10 years. The information is confidential and cannot be shared with any other government agencies, including law enforcement or immigration officials, for 72 years.