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Governor Encourages Local Governments to Mobilize for Decennial Count

Nesreen Khashan

Springtime in the Bluegrass State means March Madness and the Kentucky Derby, two annual events that get Kentuckians rallying around their state's heritage.

Jon Park, who runs the Kentucky Complete Count Task Force, thinks that's not a bad time to get them to rally for their future, as well. And it just so happens that those two Kentucky events coincide with important stages of the 2020 Census.

The Kentucky Complete Count Task Force was formed in March 2018 by executive order from Gov. Matt Bevin to ensure a complete and accurate census count. One of the ideas that came out of the task force: incorporate 2020 Census messages into the two annual events that are cultural institutions in Kentucky.

“We’re very engaged in this, and we really want to make this work. We all have a dog in this fight — or, in Kentucky, a horse in this race.”

— Jon Park, Kentucky Complete Count Task Force

The March Madness college basketball tournament begins right around the time census notifications will start to go out in March 2020. And the Kentucky Derby, traditionally held on the first Saturday in May, is about the time that the Census Bureau starts its Nonresponse Followup operation.

“We’re very engaged in this, and we really want to make this work,” Park said. “We all have a dog in this fight — or, in Kentucky, a horse in this race.”

States Are Getting Involved

Census 2020 Logo with Tagline

The Census Bureau’s State Complete Count Commission (SCCC) program encourages states to enter into partnership with the Census Bureau either by executive order or legislation. While states were free to create these commissions in the past, this is the first time the Census Bureau has encouraged this type of formal partnership.

Dozens of states have already formed commissions, with Kentucky’s being one of the earliest to launch. Since the task force was formed, it has convened four times.

Park said the task force’s goal is to continue to increase the state’s response rate. From federal funding for critical programs to congressional representation, he said that the stakes are clear for Kentucky.

“We’re very much engaged and want to do better than we did 10 years ago,” Park said. “Back in the 1990s, Kentucky lost a seat because of a loss of population. During a task force meeting I asked everyone in the room ‘what congressional seat do you want to lose this time?’ and I was only half joking.”

Kentucky’s task force includes representatives from the state’s largest employers, philanthropic organizations, nonprofits and universities. State and local government officials serve to ensure state initiatives reach local communities.

Governor Encourages Local Governments

There is a lot of variation on how states run their complete count commissions. Even before Kentucky’s task force got off the ground, the state’s approach has been highly collaborative with local governments. 

Last year, Gov. Bevin’s office posted a video encouraging Kentucky local governments to participate in the Census Bureau Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) operation that allows jurisdictions to ensure addresses will be correct for the upcoming count.

Tuesday, Gov. Bevin joined the Task Force, a bipartisan delegation of state lawmakers and other partners, at the State Capitol to reaffirm support for getting a complete and accurate count in Kentucky.

The event was part of the Task Force's redoubling of promotional efforts as the census nears its April 1 "Year Out" commemoration.

Gov. Bevin reiterated the importance of the 2020 Census to the vitality of his state, as well as all others.

“The decennial census is a vital undertaking that directly impacts each state’s legislative representation as well as the allocation of federal funds and governmental services,” he said. “We established the Kentucky Complete Count Task Force to lead the 2020 Census planning efforts here in the Commonwealth. Through the hard work of this capable group, I am confident that we will see increased awareness and maximum participation by Kentuckians in the 2020 Census.”

Coordinating With Cities and Counties

One of the leading voices in the effort to engage county governments is Judge Gary Moore, Boone County’s top elected official and a Kentucky Complete Count Task Force member.

First elected in 1998, Moore is gearing up to promote his third census as a county executive. This is his first time serving in a state-level census role, which he sees as an opportunity to share his experience more widely.

Situated in the northern part of the state within the Cincinnati Metropolitan Statistical Area, Boone is one of Kentucky’s fastest growing counties. Its population has increased by more than 50 percent, from 85,991 residents counted in the 2000 Census to 130,700 residents estimated in 2017.

In the 2010 Census, Boone County’s response rate was 81 percent, exceeding even the state’s rate, which was 77 percent. Similarly, the county’s response rate in the 2000 Census was 80 percent, while Kentucky’s was 72 percent.

“I have found since my first days in office that whatever we are called upon to do, whatever challenge there might be, most likely some other county has already faced that challenge and has perfected or improved that process,” Moore said. “By engaging with other communities through the state’s efforts, we can share best practices and not make the mistakes of the past.”

With recent elections ushering in several newly elected county executives, Moore said it’s critical to get his colleagues quickly up to speed. Engagement has been particularly robust with the eastern rural part of the state, where response rates have historically been the lowest.

The task force is approaching this challenge both statewide and locally. The Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation, which serves the state’s rural farming communities, is represented on the task force.

Working with Gov. Bevin’s office, Moore is spearheading efforts to ensure that counties and cities across Kentucky launch their own complete count committees and sync with the state’s complete count initiatives.

With all the work that lies ahead, Moore wants to make sure that engagement efforts resonate with other jurisdictions and ultimately reach all Kentuckians.

“The idea of a campaign around the Kentucky Derby theme was also to make it interesting and fun and maybe create some healthy competition between counties,” Moore said.

 

Nesreen Khashan is supervisory program analyst for the U.S. Census Bureau’s Community Partnership and Engagement Program.

 

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