The NCSL Blog


By Christi Zamarripa

If ever there was a year when fortune and a little luck were needed, 2020 is it! As many of you know, the Census Bureau announced that both self-response and field data collection will end on Sept. 30, a month earlier than anticipated.

posterThe nation’s self-response rate is still low at 64.7% as of Aug. 28, with millions of households not yet counted. You can see your state’s total response rate and, with an extra click, response rates in your state’s counties.

The pandemic has caused everyone who’s working to get out the count to rip up their pre-designed plans and create new ones.Sometimes, you just have to laugh when things don’t go as planned and use a little creativity to keep yourself moving forward. Here are some fun and innovative ways communities have encouraged participation in the 2020 census:

  • The mayors of the Virginia towns of Hampton and Newport News have challenged each other in a good old-fashioned wager: The town with the highest census participation will get either Hampton crabs or James River oysters.
  • In Nevada, the city of Fernley challenged the city of Mesquite to a friendly competition to see will have a higher self-response rate. The winner will receive the keys to the other’s city. 
  • In New Mexico, the Sandoval County 2020 Census Complete Count Committee, in partnership with the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce, is holding weekly drawings to reward residents for participating in the census and to support local businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The mayor of Weaver, Ala., is encouraging residents to take part in the census by promising to shave his mustache if the city reaches 80% participation. Weaver has a 73% response rate and needs just 7% to see a clean-shaven mayor.
  • The Department of Education in Orange County, Calif., encouraged students to produce original artwork, videos or graphics that answer the question, “How does the 2020 census help my community?”
  • The American Library Association and others have put together this adorable video featuring the star of the 2016 Disney film “Moana,” Chloe Auli’i Cravalho. They hope the video will help children and families get counted in the census.

So, if you live in Newport News and want to get Hampton crabs, live in Fernley, Nev., and want the key to Mesquite or if you live in Weaver, Ala., and want to see the mayor shave that mustache, be sure to fill out the 2020 census. There are only five weeks to go!

Christi Zamarripa is a policy associate with NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting Program.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.