Local Government

Marion commissioners asked to urge residents to participate in census

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jul. 15, 2019 5:10 pm

PALMYRA, Mo. -- The Marion County Commission was asked Monday to encourage local residents to participate in the 2020 national census.

A lot is on the line, according to Michael Amantea, a partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau in St. Louis, who spoke to the commission Monday morning.

Amantea said the level of participation in the 2020 census by Missouri's 114 counties will determine how much per-capita federal funding Missouri receives for the next 10 years and how many congressional seats the state will be allowed based on population.

After the last census in 2010, Amantea said, Missouri lost one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives because the state's census count was less than it should have been.

"We really don't want to lose another congressional seat, and it could happen if we don't get a strong census," Amantea said.

He said Missouri also runs the risk of losing electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election if an undercount occurs.

"Missouri would have less say in who is elected the next president," he said.

Amantea said the average response rate in filling out the census questionnaire in 2010 was 74% in Missouri and across the nation. In Marion County, he said, the response rate was 79% "based on how many people we believe live in the area."

Amantea said Marion County's response rate was "well above average," and he hopes the response rate will be even higher when the census "goes live" in the middle of March.

Amantea said Marion County is divided into eight geographic census tracts. The lowest-performing tract was in western Marion County, where 74% of the population filled out the census.

"The tract that concerns me (in the 2020 census) is Palmyra," Amantea said.

While Palmyra's average response rate in the 2010 census was 76%, the city's response rate was down from 81% in 2000 -- a worrisome trend, he said.

Amantea urged commissioners to help bump up the county's participation rate in 2020 by doing four things:

º Send a letter to the U.S. Census Bureau pledging to try to get the best count possible in Marion County.

º Appoint a "complete count committee" of five trusted volunteers who will educate, engage and encourage the county's citizens to participate in the census. The committee also will identify any hard-to-count local populations, such as the homeless.

º Identify one person from the county to serve as a point of contact for the Census Bureau.

º Help get out the word that the U.S. Census Bureau is looking to hire local residents to help conduct the census. The jobs pay $14 an hour.

Amantea said once the census begins in March, U.S. residents will be able to answer the questionnaire online (for the first time), by telephone or by mailing back the census form.

If residents at a particular address haven't responded by May, a Census Bureau enumerator will personally visit the address to try to get the census information.

In other action Monday, the commission heard an update from Randy Cox of Ameren on the Mark Twain Transmission project, a 96-mile transmission line that will pass through five Northeast Missouri counties from Palmyra to the Iowa border.

Cox said crews are working in Marion County, and the project remains on schedule to be completed by December.

Marion County Highway Department Supervisor Mike Schaefer said flooding in the St. Louis area delayed the delivery of chemicals needed for the county's dust-suppression program on gravel roads. He expects the deliveries to take place this week, so the program should begin soon.

The commission conferred with Marion County Assessor Mark Novak on several assessment issues facing his office.