Elizabeth Daigneau is GOVERNING's managing editor.E-mail: email@example.com
During the critical months of March and April, the Census Bureau will escalate its outreach efforts, and state and local leadership is essential.
Census data determine how federal funds are distributed and influence redistricting efforts. So, it should go without saying that census participation is important, especially mail-in participation. Not only is obtaining census responses in person expensive -- about $85 million is saved for every percentage point increase in the number of forms returned by mail -- but responses on mailed forms tend to be more accurate. To reverse a decades-long decline in mail participation rates, the U.S. Census Bureau has created the "Take 10" initiative, which will ask people to "take 10 minutes" to complete and return their form by mail. As part of this initiative, the bureau would like elected and appointed officials to issue challenges to their communities to improve their census response rate. Communities may choose to compete against each other to generate civic pride, friendly competition and media buzz. To help officials develop a mail participation rate challenge, the bureau has put together a turnkey kit with suggestions on how to issue and promote a challenge and encourage participation. It also offers sample materials to engage the media and launch a grassroots campaign in areas that have particularly low or lagging response rates.