2020 Census to be conducted electronically; St. Mary’s County prepares to “count all”

Leonardtown, MD - “If you don't want anyone knocking on your door” when the 2020 Census comes around next year, you may be in luck. At the kick-off meeting for the St. Mary’s County 2020 Complete Count Committee, it was announced by Daniel Jones from the United States Census Bureau that for the first time ever, the nationwide-decennial census will have an option for online completion.

The campaign to get everyone counted across the country will go into full effect on March 12, when the first mailing is sent out inviting people to fill out the form online. While this mailing and the ones that will follow have been estimated to reach 95 percent of the population, it is the marginalized populations that the bureau is more focused on reaching.

“We really want to count everyone,” Daniel Jones said during his presentation to the new board. “This is the way that we allocate congressional seats, this is the way we do redistricting… and this is the way we distribute over $675 billion every single year.”

Jones’ emphasis on how this census has planned on utilizing digital marketing and social media to engage more people than ever before is a major positive. However, the importance of achieving and maintaining a positive image of the entire data collection process was simultaneously noted.

“When you talk about the census in your community, talk about the benefits of it,” Jones explained. “How completing the census questionnaire impacts their personal life? How [filling out] the census questionnaire helps with the [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] or providing [funding] for food stamps… how school’s free lunch is provided because of the census numbers, talk about how Section 8 housing [has it’s] funding allocated based on the census numbers. Talk to individuals in the community in a positive manner to help them understand that this is important to them.”

With the impending census, there are a large number of concerns. From the fact that the collection will be occurring during a presidential election year to various controversial conversations that have been happening with regards to the addition of a citizenship question to new cybersecurity threats that will be coming along with the new electronic recording system. Protections against cybersecurity threats will be of the utmost importance according to Jones, which is likely why all data input by a user will become instantly encrypted when filling out the online form. Additionally, the census bureau says it will not transmit any individuals data to any other entity.

“The information that is provided to the census bureau is confidential,” Jones said. “That means we do not share this data with anyone [or] with any agency. We share aggregated data, no micro-data is shared.”

The department will put out a total of five separate letters and postcards in hopes of getting a significant portion of the population to fill out the census online. However, if you have not managed to do so by May 12, you may no longer be safe from getting that knock on your door from a helpful canvasser. With a financial incentive at stake for the state, it is no wonder why getting every Maryland resident counted is of the utmost importance to the governor’s office.

“For every uncounted Marylander, that costs our state $18,250 over the ten-year budget cycle that is covered by a census,” Audra Harrison from Maryland’s Census department said when addressing Governor Hogan’s census initiatives. “Those are critical dollars… you can stand on nearly any street in this country and point to something that was funded using census data. The census is about our families and our communities.”

As previously reported by, St. Mary’s County actually ranked as the lowest reporting county in Southern Maryland back in 2010. St. Mary’s reported a 75 percent response rate, which is short in comparison to Charles County at 77 percent and Calvert County with the high rate of 80 percent. It also fell short of the state average of 76 percent, which the Maryland Census representatives were visually distraught over in terms of potentially lost funding. 

For more details regarding the upcoming census, visit the bureau’s website here.

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