No Census Without US

Counting Down to Completion

As the 2020 Census deadline approaches, Washington state has one of the highest response rates—but not everyone has been counted.

By Bao-Tram Do, Program Officer

As the 2020 Census completion deadline looms, the good news is that Washington State continues to hold its place among the top five states with the highest total response rates, with at least until Sept. 30 to complete the process of counting every resident. (A legal battle is ongoing after the Trump administration moved up the deadline, originally set for Oct. 31.)

In the final days of the count, we hope to get the word out about the census and highlight the efforts of our nonprofit partners in ensuring everyone in Washington state—especially those who are historically undercounted — is counted in the 2020 Census.

The stakes are high. Conducted every 10 years, the census plays a pivotal role in collecting and reporting data that is essential for the government, business, and nonprofits to function in supporting services for communities nationwide. Hundreds of federal financial assistance programs rely on census data to guide the distribution of funds to states, counties, cities, and households. Unlike voting, which is limited to registered voters and U.S. citizens, all residents can participate in the census. Everyone is an asset in our community and should be counted. In 2016, the Census Bureau estimates that Washington state received a total of $16.7 billion or approximately $2,300 per person in federal funds.

Seattle Foundation has supported 2020 Census outreach through a variety of efforts including the Regional Census Fund, a philanthropic and public partnership with local government that made early investments of $1.29 million to first and second round grantees. We partnered with Latino Community Fund, Na’ah Illahee Fund, Program Alliance, and Washington Census Alliance to implement a statewide Trusted Messenger program reaching over 22,000 households through a $4 million contract funded by the Washington State Office of Financial Management’s Census Education and Outreach program.

While many factors may contribute to Washington state’s strong census count so far, our community partners have done powerful work encouraging their communities to complete the census in a variety of creative ways. Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, these nonprofits and coalitions adapted their census strategies to maintain social distancing, hosting activities such as a virtual canoe race that stoked friendly competition to boost census response rates among Native tribes. They used social media platforms to support #MakeBlackCount, a campaign to increase response rates in the Black community, and created mobile census questionnaire assistance centers in diverse communities across South King County, which helps people with limited internet access complete their census form.

So far, Washington state’s total enumeration rate is 97.8%. Let’s get to 100% in the next few days by encouraging everyone we know to take part in the census. Anyone can complete the 2020 Census online in just a few minutes.

In addition to determining federal resources, census data is also used to draw new boundary lines for voting district. This redistricting process affects the political representation of all communities, which can be kept together or split apart based on census data. After the 2020 Census is complete, Seattle Foundation will be working with community partners to support an equitable redistricting process through our Catalyzing Community Impact Strategy.

If you are interested in learning more about this work, please contact Bao-Tram Do. If you would like to support our work in building a vibrant democracy, please click here.