Starting August 11, workers from the United States Census Bureau have been going door to door in Moore County trying to count those who did not "self respond" to the Census 2020 invitation that the bureau sent to every address in the county and nation earlier in the year, according to a Census Bureau spokesperson. The process will continue until September 30, when operations will cease across the country. Whatever count the bureau has at that point, Moore County residents will have to live with for the next 10 years. The spokesperson adds that census workers have been supplied with personal protection equipment and have been trained to conduct the census safely in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Households can continue to self respond either by mail, telephone, or online. Census officials say they prefer self response because it increases the likelihood of an accurate count and reduces the number of homes that have to be visited by bureau personnel, something that is especially important this year with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging across the country. To help the self-response process along in Moore County, census officials have scheduled a so-called questionnaire assistance event for Saturday, September 12, during the Ears and Beers Festival. Trained census workers will be on hand with iPads at the Moore County Courthouse from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm to help people provide the necessary information. Spanish speakers will be on hand among the workers; phone and online assistance in 12 non-English languages will also be available.
So far, Moore County has lagged behind both the nation and state in responding to the census. While 64.5 percent of residents nationwide and 59.8 percent of Texans have responded, as of August 24, only 48.8 percent of Moore County residents, including 55.7 percent from Dumas, 39.5 percent from Sunray, and 25 percent from Cactus, have sent in their information.
Census numbers determine political representation and the distribution of billions of dollars in federal and state money. An undercount of those living in Moore County means less money for education, health, transportation, housing, and other essentials.
Private businesses also use census data to determine where they will open a store. Companies will bypass Moore County when they are considering locations for expansion, if there is insufficient population to make opening a store worth their while. If people are actually residing here, but don't show up in the census figures, too bad, they may as well not exist.
The Census Bureau needs to count everyone residing in the county, including those who are undocumented, according to a bureau spokesperson. The spokesperson stresses that census information is protected, and the bureau does not share identifying information with immigration or law enforcement agencies.
Moore County Judge Rowdy Rhoades says there is nothing for anyone to fear from the census; there are only benefits. "An accurate count is going to help everybody. It is a big thing."