Photo: Matthew Sauer

Census 2020: Fill out your 2020 Census, with some fava beans and a nice Chianti

Posted on May 31, 2020 by Matthew Sauer, Herald-Tribune Media Group

censusAhhh, Census 2020. You’ve been buffeted and shaken like so many people, organizations, businesses, and governments in this coronavirus pandemic.

There’s a bill pending in Congress to extend the deadline for this decennial effort mandated by the U.S. Constitution. The Census Bureau doesn’t think it can get a count done and submitted to President Donald Trump by the end of the year.

As I write this, about 89 million households have been counted.

But the bureau also is worried about not being able to provide detailed census data to state redistricting officials by March 31, 2021.

In short, it’s a something of a mess. But it’s somewhat our doing, too. We can’t lay this all at the feet of the coronavirus. About the time the Census Bureau was really ramping up mailings with online instructions and then with reminders, many of us were already cooling our heels at home to help prevent a spike in infections.

That left some of us with a lot of time on our hands, and I was hoping that would mean folks would use a little spare time for the count. That hasn’t happened to the degree it needs to.

You probably know what the bureau does when it can’t get a self response from a household. In the pre-COVID-19 days, people in the field knocked on doors for answers (a gig made famous by Hannibal Lecter and this quote: “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”

The prospect has been complicated. Not by fears of hungry serial killers, but by the virus. The bureau struggled to find personnel before the pandemic and it’s likely still tricky, even with so many people out of work or furloughed.

The simple answer is for us all to participate. The form is quick. It took me minutes.

Go to It helps if you have your identification number that was mailed by the bureau, but you also can do it even if you don’t through the website.

Why am I flogging this issue?

Well, the Herald-Tribune has partnered on a list of community issues with The Patterson Foundation as part of our ongoing Aspirations Journalism effort. The census issue has been one we have swarmed with various community partners. You can learn more and find some great information at The Patterson Foundation's website.

But it’s so much more than that for all us, folks. Sure the census is a somewhat dry topic (except, of course, for Hannibal), but it has huge impacts, as a bevy of columnists with skin in the game have told you over these past few months in the Herald-Tribune.

Florida has more than 21 million residents, and our population is the basis for our representation in the U.S. House. The census will affect the size of state delegations for the 2022 House elections and state votes in the Electoral College for the 2024 presidential election. State and local officials use the census to help redraw congressional, state and local district boundaries. Census totals help determine the amount of funding that state governments and local communities receive from the feds, like $700 billion a few years back.

Coronavirus-inspired rescue plans continue to swirl around Washington, and knowing a state’s population as accurately as possible helps with allocation.

So if you haven’t census-ed, think seriously about taking some time to do it.

Now the envelopes please: Who are our regional winners?

North Port continues to kick proverbial butt, with a 70.5% response rate as I write this. Some city officials have credited a bevy of yard signs in the huge community for driving response.

Punta Gorda, Charlotte County’s only incorporated community, is second among this region’s cities at 66.2%. Venice is third among cities within Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, and DeSoto counties (where The Patterson Foundation and Herald-Tribune partners have focused efforts) at 56.4%.

Bradenton? 51.4%. Palmetto? 51.9%. Arcadia? 40.9%.

The laggers? Baffling as it is, it’s our barrier islands. Maybe it’s seasonality, I don’t know for sure. But they are home to some of our most educated and well-to-do residents, so I don’t get it.

Longboat Key is at 36.3%, leading all others.

Gorgeous and relaxing Anna Maria Island (maybe too relaxed) is at the bottom, with the city of Holmes Beach at 32.2%; Bradenton Beach, 22.4%; and the eponymous city of Anna Maria ... 7.3%.

Sarasota County wins the county-level race at 61.4%, followed closely by Charlotte County, at 60.1%. Manatee has racked up 54.5%, while DeSoto is last at 43.5%.

Take the 10 minutes (at most) and let’s raise those numbers.

Census 2020 special coverage comes from Aspirations Journalism, an initiative of The Patterson Foundation and the Herald-Tribune Media Group to inform, inspire, and engage the community.

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