By Nancy Leifer and Nancy Maxson, Co-Presidents of the League of Women Voters of Missoula

Everyone living in the United States and its five territories is required by law to be counted in the 2020 Census. So far only 35 percent of Lake County and 24 percent of Sanders County residents have completed the Census questionnaire. Only 50 percent of people Montanan have been counted, below the national average of 59 percent.   

The Census is so important the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes has its own Census Coordinator. Robert McDonald oversees the CSKT Complete Count Committee. He says, “When people ask me, ‘What’s a way I can help my community?’ That’s easy. Fill out the census. We count. A complete count means a step closer to fairness. Historically, our community has been undercounted, which leads to under-funding, which leads to gaps in services.”

The 2020 Census is a massive undertaking. It requires counting a diverse and growing population in the United States and the five U.S. territories. To do this, the U.S. Census Bureau must:

Make an accurate list of every residence in the U.S. and five U.S. territories—including houses, apartments, dormitories, military barracks, and more.

Get a member of every residence to complete the census online, by phone, or by mail.

Follow up with homes that have not responded.

McDonald explains how easy it is to answer the questionnaire “There’s an ad I saw that came from tribal communities in the southwest. It shows a large golden hunk of fry bread. The caption reads, ‘it takes longer to eat this than to fill out the census.’ I applaud all these creative efforts to get people aware of the need for us all to fill out the census. Now that it can be done online or even by calling in, makes it that much easier.”

Any household that has not completed the ten question Census form on-line or through the mail can expect a visit from Census worker in the next few months.

According to McDonald “Our leadership is aware and welcoming of census workers’ plans to come onto the reservation and resume their efforts to get packets to homes that have not yet responded to the census questions.”

If someone visits your home later this year to collect information for the 2020 Census, check to make sure they have a valid ID badge with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date. Census workers may also carry Census Bureau bags and other equipment with the Census Bureau logo.

If you still have questions about their identity, you can contact your Regional Census Center to speak with a Census Bureau representative.

The Census worker will never ask for:

  • Your Social Security number.
  • Your bank account or credit card numbers.
  • Anything on behalf of a political party.
  • Money or donations.

The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them strictly confidential. In fact, every Census worker takes an oath to protect your personal information for life. The Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement agencies. The law ensures that your private data is protected and that your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court. Violating Title 13 is a federal crime, punishable by prison time and/or a fine of up to $250,000.

The answers you provide are used only to produce statistics. You are kept anonymous: The Census Bureau is not permitted to publicly release your responses in any way that could identify you or anyone else in your home. 

The League of Women Voter has been registering voters and providing non-partisan voting information for 100 years. Membership is open to men and women, citizens and non-citizens age 16 or over.  For more information about the League, go to our web site: lwvmissoula.org.

Spotlight on Citizenship

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