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Time slashed for census response

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Census experts, lawmakers and other academics are up in arms over the Census Department’s decision to end the response by a month.

They say an under-count is likely and will produce less accurate data — and that includes right here in North Dakota.

State census workers are going door to door counting the 150,000 plus North Dakota Households that haven’t completed the 2020 Census.

Yes you read that correctly, Census workers have begun the gargantuan task of what’s called non-response follow up or personally visiting over 150,000 people who didn’t fill out their census paperwork.

But the news gets worse. The Census Department had asked Congress to give workers until the end of October to get it done because of delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but those talks have stalled in Washington.

Meaning Census folks have about 50 days to get you counted.

North Dakota census officials have been banging the census drum for over a year. One of those is Kevin Iverson who’s overseeing North Dakota’s count.

“It’s enormously frustrating because this data is used by Congress to figure out how to distribute funds, and like we said, we expect the impact potentially could be, just if 10 percent aren’t counted, to be $725 million over the next decade. That’s a huge amount of money,” said Iverson.

What’s also surprising is North Dakota is one of just 10 states whose self-response rates are behind their 2010 self-response rates. And leaders say the possible undercount could have a huge impact on North Dakota’s smaller towns.

One of those small towns is Hazen in Mercer County. KX News caught up with Mayor Jerry Obenauer who tells us it seems the Census has gotten lost in the craziness of 2020.

“The overall shadow right now is COVID. And I think people have just lost a little bit of touch of reality and what the facts and truth are and this whole COVID, this is just making the water muddier for people as to how important this is,” said Obenauer.

Responses are also woefully low across tribal communities in North Dakota, as response rates so far are all under 35%.

Tribal officials are also upset with the decision.

North Dakota Native Vote says the Tribal communities are already undercounted and considered crisis areas, while Western Native Voice tells KX News that many federally funded Tribal programs will be severely impacted by an undercount.

But Census officials feel the rug has been pulled out from under them with such a small window now to get remaining people counted.

“More than one-third of households in the state of North Dakota have not yet responded to the census, and so that cut our available time for the census bureau to go door-to-door, by just about a third,” said Iverson

So if you haven’t already filled out your census form, it’s a move that will make an impact for years to come.

Several lawsuits have been filed against the decision claiming the move is an attempt to limit the power of immigrants of color as well as Latinos.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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