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Census 2020: Risk of Undercount in Rural Colorado

Lucas Turner/KDNK

The census is supposed to be a complete count of everyone in the country, but people always are missed, and rural residents tend to be undercounted more frequently than others.

State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, who represents some two-thirds of the state's eastern plains, said people in his district are missed in part because remote locations are not always easy for census workers to find on Google maps.

"It's a lot harder to count people in rural Colorado because we are so wide spread," he said, "but it's so important that we count each and every one of us, so that we can have the services we need in rural Colorado."

Some of the hardest-to-count rural areas in Colorado have been counties where the majority of residents are Hispanic. Even though the U.S. Supreme Court blocked efforts to add a citizenship question to the census, many remain distrustful of an administration openly hostile to immigrants. All data collected is confidential, and cannot be accessed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement or other government agencies.

Census numbers determine how federal tax dollars are distributed to states for roads, education and veterans, health care, housing and children's programs.

State Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, who represents Archuleta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, La Plata, Ouray and San Juan counties, urged constituents to make sure they're not undercounted compared with the state's urban residents.

"It is up to all of us, especially in rural Colorado, to fill out the form," she said. "It takes 10 minutes. It's pretty darned easy. We have voices, we need to use our voices and we need to be counted."

On Monday, the U.S. Census Bureau said it's suspending field operations until April 15 because of the pandemic, to protect public health. The 2020 census will remain open, and forms can be filled out online at 2020census.gov, over the phone by calling the number provided in your invitation, and by paper through the mail.

Information on the census is available online in Spanish and English.

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