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SD Census Workers Scramble to Count All Residents

In addition to federal delays, South Dakota's governor has been questioned over whether she was too slow to ramp up state outreach efforts for the 2020 census. (Adobe Stock)
In addition to federal delays, South Dakota's governor has been questioned over whether she was too slow to ramp up state outreach efforts for the 2020 census. (Adobe Stock)
September 23, 2020

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- From shifting workers to different states to offering them overtime incentives, the U.S. Census Bureau is doing everything it can to ensure all residents are included in the 2020 count. But with time running out, it's an open question whether that will happen in South Dakota.

According to the Bureau's latest data, South Dakota ranks 37th in the nation for the total number of households counted, at 94.6%. Miranda Brudvig, administrative manager at the bureau's Sioux Falls field office, said most of the metro areas are finished, but other areas still need to be addressed.

"The rural parts of South Dakota, which we do have a lot of, and then the reservations," she said. "Those are always typically the two hardest parts of South Dakota to get counted accurately."

Because of the pandemic, she said, they have to be careful about approaching reservations, with Native Americans more vulnerable to the coronavirus. Statewide, the bureau said, 23,000 households have yet to be counted. This summer, the Trump administration abruptly called for field operations to end Sept. 30. An extension still is possible, pending a court challenge.

The change in timeline came on top of delays in the spring when the pandemic was unfolding. Until the end date is resolved, Brudvig said, they're operating with the mindset that they have to finish within a week's time. She said it's fair to question whether they can get a 100% accurate count in South Dakota.

"Unfortunately, I would agree," she said. "Of course, we don't want that to happen. Our goal is to still get that done by the 30th. But of course, if we had a little extra time, that's gonna always help out."

She said they're bringing in census workers from Texas to help, as well as providing overtime pay. Even if all households are counted, there's always concern that marginalized individuals, including those who share households, will be overlooked.

Census reporting data is online at 2020census.gov.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - SD