With the beginning of the once-a-decade U.S. Census population survey and subsequent canvassing process only months away, local officials are working to prepare area residents — and groups — in the hopes of providing the most accurate count possible to the federal government.
The census officially begins on April 1, 2020, which is known as Census Day. The canvassing process runs though August.
Dan Rudge, who serves as the executive director of the Bryan/College Station Metropolitan Organization, has delivered numerous presentations in recent weeks about the census process. He told the Brazos County Commissioners Court last week that if the B-CS metro area exceeds 200,000 residents in the next count, the metro area becomes a Transportation Management Area. Such distinction comes with “major” shifts in transit funding, Rudge said.
“What’s really important is that it’s not just transportation money, but community development block grants, elderly and disabled services and a wide variety of different programs are all funded based on population, and that comes directly from the census,” Rudge said. “We have to get it right in 2020 in order to maximize the money that we get for these programs that are federally funded.”
Rudge said a variety of methods exist for people to participate in the census process.
“The best way people can help is to fill out their census form as soon as they get it. They’ll be able to fill it out on their computer, they’ll have paper copies, [and] they can call in on an available number,” Rudge said.
In 2010, Brazos County had 194,851 residents, according to the census; the B-CS urbanized area was 171,345. According to Rudge, the U.S. Census Bureau said the metro area grew by more than 30,000 people between 2010 and 2018, which he said makes an accurate and full count all the more vital for Brazos County as a whole and for the Bryan-College Station metro area in particular.
Rudge told commissioners that the local population was undercounted in 2010, with students at Texas A&M University and Blinn College reporting their hometown addresses.
Rudge said that the results of the census will be made public in March 2021, with redistricting for state and federal offices across the country — and in Texas — on the line.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 theme is “Shape Your Future.” The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in recent months about whether the census would include a question about whether an individual was a U.S. citizen. Ultimately, the high court ruled that the reasoning presented for adding the question was flawed, and so the citizenship question was removed.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that between 6 million and 7 million people would not have filled out the census if the citizenship question remained on the form.
Commissioners asked Rudge to shed more light on which areas and populations have lower participation in the situation, which Rudge referred to as the “hardest to count” populations.
“It’s primarily minority communities and particularly Hispanic communities, which don’t have a lot of trust in the federal government that have lower levels of participation,” Rudge said. “There is a fairly significant population in Brazos County that we need to reach out to that lives in Brazos County year-round as opposed to just students.”
Precinct 4 Commissioner Irma Cauley said that some historically black areas of the county are also “hardest to count” areas for census canvassers.
Rudge estimated that the local census committee, which is still in formation, would consist of “around 12” people.
“We have not finalized who will be on the committee,” Rudge said. “It will include a combination of elected officials, community leaders from the hardest-to-count communities, the chamber [of commerce], and student leaders from Blinn and Texas A&M.”
Results from any census or survey are reported in statistical format only, and individual records from the decennial censuses are confidential for 72 years.
All Census Bureau employees swear a lifetime oath to protect respondent information, and it is a felony for any Census Bureau employee to disclose any confidential census information during or after employment.