Census participation up

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

When it comes to the census, Portales City Manager Tom Howell said there’s never a feeling you can declare victory.

“I’ve been in city government a long time, and this is my third census,” said Howell, promoted in from the public works department last fall. “You’re never happy with the turnout you get, the numbers you get. You’ve got to keep trying.”

The numbers, however, are up for this decade’s participation. According to documents at census.gov, Portales has 69 percent participation in 2010 compared to 62 percent in 2000.

The 2010 numbers are slightly down for Clovis — 66 percent in 2010, 69 percent in 2000 — but Clovis Public Affairs Coordinator Claire Burroughes said the statistics are misleading.

“It’s not a concern at this point,” Burroughes said Wednesday. “The count you’re seeing on the census website is just the count they’ve received from the (mail) responses. It doesn’t include door-to-door (efforts).”

The 2000 numbers, Burroughes said, include the enumeration done by door-to-door workers employed by the U.S. Census. Non-response follow-up began May 1 and is scheduled to run through July 10.

Local officials said no more events are planned, as the outreach efforts are in the hands of the door-to-door effort.

Both Burroughes and Howell said a team effort prior to May helped push participation rates up. Such events included radio campaigns and a joint effort with the U.S. Postal Service.

“Probably the biggest difference,” Howell said, “was the fact that we joined in with the city of Clovis and with the counties pitching in, we probably did more of a media outreach campaign than in the past.”

New Mexico’s participation rate is 69 percent, slightly below the nationwide participation rate of 72 percent.

A call to state representatives for the U.S. Census was not returned.