Census count marked by coronavirus-related challenges ends early

Oct 15, 2020

Credit Census.gov

Tim Dillon, the executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District and the borough’s census coordinator, thought he had until the end of the month for a final census push. Now that deadline is today, due to a Supreme Court ruling to end counting early.

That’s complicated a process that was already made difficult by the pandemic.

“It’s kind of left us in a scramble,” Dillon said. It’s been so difficult this past year with COVID and the starting and stopping and everything and it’s really been pretty bizarre.”

Experts and lower court judges say the shortening of the census count period will make it harder to insure a complete count nationwide.

In Alaska, 54 percent of residents have filled out their self-recorded census responses to date, while an additional 45 percent have been counted by enumerators. On the peninsula, 44 percent of households have self-responded. Those numbers vary across communities, from 35 percent in Seldovia to 60 percent in Soldotna.

Still, these last 16 days might have nudged those numbers higher. 

“Between now and the end of October, the big thing was just those last-minute pushes. Doing as many radio interviews, TV interviews, newspaper, going to different groups,” Dillon said. “Reminding people at each of the different council meetings or the assembly meetings that, ‘Hey, make sure you get counted, this is something you have to get done.’ And really putting the word out to not only our elected officials but all of our community leaders.”

Dillon said these last weeks are also a chance to contact those harder-to-reach groups.

“We have an unbelievable population on the Kenai Peninsula of young people that are either couch surfing or that are homeless,” he said. “And those are folks that we really wanted to make sure that we hit.”

The deadline for filling out the census is the end of the day Oct. 15.

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