By Christi Zamarripa
Minnesota has a goal: it wants to rank first in terms of state response rates to the 2020 census. It was number 2 in 2010, so maybe that’s why it’s trying harder.
To get to that goal—and to the even more important goal of ensuring that all Minnesotans are counted in 2020—Minnesota has created for the first time a state-level Complete Count Committee (CCC).
The CCC is learning from as many people as it can on census outreach, communication and messaging. Its goal is to “bring together people from different cultures, a variety of languages and socio-economic diversity,” says Andrew Virden, Director of Census Operations and Engagement. “You want representation from your entire state. Until you get all the folks into a room, you won’t realize the areas you are missing.”
For instance, Minnesota has the second most Hmong American residents (2nd again!), after California. The Minnesota-based Hmong Americans Census Network (HACN) created an electronic sign-up form to get the Hmong community to commit to participating in the census. On April 1, 2020, HACN plans to reach out to those individuals and answer their census questions. Minnesota plans to expand this idea and use it throughout the state and in all communities. (Other states can borrow the idea too.)
Minnesota is also focusing on:
- Reaching people who are harder to reach, such as the 190,000 Minnesotans with P.O. boxes. The census will not be mailed to P.O. boxes, so the CCC is working on educating and informing the owners of those P.O. boxes.
- Preparing for the first digital census. They are working with others to conduct a parallel census and to make available tablets and other web-enabled devices within community spaces: Grocery stores, farmer markets, schools, libraries, places of worship – to name a few.
- Improving accuracy in previous undercounted communities by recruiting from within those areas. They want to get the people who live, work and play in those communities involved. These communities have shared cultures, language and interests.
- Getting the word out every way they can, including with short videos available in in English, Spanish, Hmong, and Somali languages.
As for advice, Virden says, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Don’t let no funding or little funding stand in your way. Don’t let the unknown stop you from moving forward.”
And let the competition to be Number One begin!
For more information on the census and what actions the states are taking to ensure an accurate count, please click here.
Christi Zamarripa is a policy associate with NCSL’s elections and redistricting program.