The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Lily Martin
Staff writer 

Curry in top ten for Census counting


August 23, 2020

Lily Martin

Municipalities are ramping up efforts to promote the Census, including this sign at the Curry County Adult Detention Center. The Census is collecting information through September.

Census officials report only Alaska and Puerto Rico lag behind New Mexico when it comes to filling out the 2020 census. But Curry County ranks among New Mexico's top 10 when it comes to being counted.

Nikki Lovett, the county's point of contact for the census, said local officials have put a lot of effort into the process, making use of two $63,000 grants intended for the purpose.

"We've been running newspaper ads and radio ads, that kind of thing. We also just recently have done some phone banking and auto calls where there is a company that actually calls and leaves a recorded message. We had Hank Baskett Sr. actually do one of those recordings for us and he's done one of the radio spots for us just for a local voice to try to get that message out," Lovett said.

In February the county hosted an event at the Roy S. Walker Recreation Center called "Everybody Loves the Census," with live music, face painting, balloon animals, and giveaways. It had another event planned for March that included a 10,000 count Easter egg hunt. That event was canceled due to COVID-19, and the eggs filled with candy were donated to La Casa Family Health Center.

Other promotional events have also been canceled, but Lovett said the county's been campaigning in other ways.

"We've done yard signs, which have been throughout the county, we've done door hangers, and different people have done different giveaways. We're still working on ways to do some more gift card incentive giveaways," she said. "United Way has been a big partner for us as well as Christian Believers. They both have done outreach to some of the more hard-to-reach areas, so that's been helpful."

County data shows Curry County is ranked 10th in the state and has had a 50% response rate as of last week, just under the state's average response rate of 53.9%. The top ranking state, Minnesota, shows a response rate of about 73%, as found on the UNM Census Group website.

The individual municipalities in Curry County report vastly different rates of participation. Clovis comes in at 19th place out of 105 municipalities, the highest in the county, with a 55.2% response rate. Grady and Texico fall in the middle of the pack at 44th and 49th, respectively. Melrose shows the lowest rate of response at 29.1%, 84th place overall.

Roosevelt County's response rate was 50% as of last week, and it's ranked 11th in the state. Elida is the most responsive Roosevelt town, in 18th place, with a 55.9% response rate. Dora and Portales show similar response rates and come in at 28th and 31st place. Floyd is ranked 58th, with a 38% response rate, and Causey is in 66th place with a 36% response rate.

Roosevelt County Manager Amber Hamilton cited census data that suggest for each New Mexican not counted, the state will lose about $3,745 in funding per year. For a 1% undercount New Mexico would lose an estimated $780 million over the next ten years.

Participation in the census is important as it determines funding for programs like school lunches, highway planning, medicare, and rural business grants. However,a study conducted in 2019 by the U.S. Census Bureau found that people have concerns about filling out the census because of "privacy and confidentiality, fear of repercussions, distrust in all levels of government, feeling that it doesn't matter if you are counted, and belief that completing the census might not benefit you personally."

Another issue that may contribute to New Mexico's low response rate is fear about citizenship questions on the census.

In 2019 the Trump administration proposed the addition of the question "Is this person a citizen of the United States?" to the 2020 census. This sparked concern about precedent, as it had not been a requirement before, and the Census Bureau saw the question as being harmful to the accuracy of the count and turnout overall.

The American Immigration Council found in 2016 that at least 3% of the state's population is undocumented. Fear of repercussions of filling out the census as an undocumented family member or a non-naturalized citizen could prevent a large number of New Mexicans from participating, or having their family participate.

The Pew Research Center found in February of 2020 that the majority of adults in the United States think the census will ask about their citizenship status. However, there is no citizenship question on the census and a person's citizenship status is not a requirement for filling out the survey.

The United States Constitution protects citizen and non-citizens rights to participate in the census. The survey's stated intent is to provide accurate representation in the House of Representatives based off of the total state population, not just the population of naturalized citizens

"A complete count is very important to Curry County and our municipalities as it will shape our future for the next 10 years in regards to federal funding," said Curry County Manager Lance Pyle. "To continue to move our county forward, I would strongly encourage all residents to take around 10 minutes to complete the census and be counted. It is quick, easy and secure."

A computer station at the county administration building and at Clovis City Hall are in the works to help increase participation.

"People can come in and if they need help we will have a computer set up for them to help them figure it out," Lovett said.


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