As Census 2020 draws near, Sno-Isle Libraries is prepared for the count

Sno-Isle Libraries is helping to make sure every resident in Snohomish and Island counties is counted in Census 2020.

The U.S. Constitution requires a count every 10 years of every person living in the United States. Census Day is officially April 1, 2020, when the survey asks people to report all individuals living in their household on that date.

Sno-Isle Libraries has been preparing for the big national count for months and will help every resident of Snohomish and Island counties, whether they’re a library cardholder or not.

“We’re going to be ready for Census 2020,” said Anne Murphy, Lead Librarian for Information Services with Sno-Isle Libraries.

Sno-Isle Libraries community libraries are scheduling numerous 2020 Census events, including census job information and recruiting, and library events with civic partners that explain the importance of accurate census numbers.

Census 2020 won’t be like prior censuses. Unlike prior paper surveys, the Census Bureau will use online responses as its primary method to gather information. When Census 2020 goes live on March 23, Sno-Isle Libraries will have a direct link to Census 2020 on every public computer in Sno-Isle Libraries, Murphy said.

“Everyone who wants to fill out Census 2020 at the library will be able to do so whether they have a library card or not,” she said.

Sno-Isle Libraries will host drop-in sessions at key locations so volunteers can help the public complete Census 2020 online. While library staff members will direct customers to the Census 2020 form, they won’t type information for a customer, tell the customer what personal information to enter, or collect any personal information customers submit on Census 2020.

Census 2020 will not include any questions on citizenship of household members.

Census data is used to make important decisions about federal appropriations and distribution of elected representatives to state legislatures and Congress based on population. Local governments use census data for planning and budget purposes. If the count isn’t accurate, local communities could be affected by budget priorities and electoral representation.

The Census Bureau will send a Census 2020 invitation postcard to U.S. households March 12-20, with reminder letters coming March 16-April 4. Households that don’t complete the online survey by April 8 will receive a letter from the Census Bureau that includes a paper Census 2020 survey. For those concerned with cybersecurity, this is the only way to get a paper Census 2020 survey. The Census Bureau will not accept requests for the paper form.

Households that do not submit any Census 2020 form will get an in-person visit from a Census Bureau worker between May and July 2020.

Ahead of Census 2020 events, Sno-Isle Libraries is involved at many levels.

“We are a key participant on the Snohomish County Complete Count Committee,” Murphy said. “As part of that work we’ve identified a number of activities.”

  • Participate and represent Sno-Isle Libraries on the County Census Complete Count Committee
  • Partner with League of Women Voters, counties and others to host Census information forums
  • Create a webpage at with resources and information
  • Host volunteer-led drop-in sessions at key locations for help accessing Census 2020
  • Provide Census information to Sno-Isle Libraries customers through email, social media and other communication tools
  • Provide meeting room space for Census hiring fairs; post Census worker job notices

“We’ll be working with Island County when they begin as well,” Murphy said.

Census data is the most reliable information available about population changes in the state. The U.S. Constitution also requires that the data come from the U.S. Census Bureau so that all the states use information from the same source.

Since 1991, the Washington State Redistricting Commission has used Census data to redraw 10 congressional and 49 legislative district boundaries every 10 years. In the commission’s 2001 redistricting effort, Congressional districts varied by no more than four people while the largest variation in legislative districts was 179 people.

Census data is used to reapportion the 435 congressional districts in all 50 states. Since each state is guaranteed one representative in Congress, the remaining 385 are divided according to population. Washington had seven congressional districts after the 1970 Census. The state added one congressional district after each Census in 1980, 1990 and 2010, bringing its total to 10.

The goal of Census 2020 is to count all people living in the U.S. on April 1, including those experiencing homelessness or living in transitory situations. This consists of counting people at service locations or pre-identified outdoor locations on March 30, 31 and April 1. For people living in recreational vehicle parks, campgrounds, racetracks, circuses, carnivals, marinas, hotels and motels and who do not have a home elsewhere, the counting will be conducted from April 9 to May 4.

While general statistics are released with every census, a 1978 federal policy restricts the release of any identifying personal information for 72 years. Genealogists eagerly anticipate the release of census data because it can help them trace family histories. The National Archives and Records Administration released the complete 1940 Census in 2012. The agency will release the 1950 Census in 2022.

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