Questions remain in Teton County, home to high numbers of seasonal residents as well as minority and immigrant populations, about just what percentage of the local population has been counted in the 2020 census.
Determining the current status of that count has been difficult to ascertain, in part due to Census Bureau staff departures.
Isabel Zumel, director of education and outreach for the nonprofit One22, said the fear among minority and immigrant populations in Teton County may deter census response.
“The earlier discussions at the federal level about whether to include a citizenship question on the census has increased doubt among local immigrant populations about the confidentiality of the information,” she said. “Although the citizenship question is not on the census, there is reticence to complete it because of fear of who may have access to the information and how it may be used.”
On Sept. 23, Jennifer Hillman, the former U.S. Census Bureau Media Relations Contact for Colorado, Kansas, Montana and Wyoming, said data on nonresponse follow-up specifically for Teton County was not available.
“We only have the statewide data available for total response, so the numbers for Teton County would be just the self-response number on the map I sent you,” she wrote to the News&Guide.
She referred questions about counting minorities to Joseph C. Horther the 2020 Census Latino community/Spanish Language outreach specialist for Wyoming.
Two days following her email, Hillman sent out a departure letter.
“Today, Friday, September 25th, is my last day with the 2020 Census,” she wrote. “While it is a very emotional day for me, I do not want to get away without extending thanks and conveying respect for what you have done on behalf of your community where the 2020 Census is concerned. From the beginning of this critical civic exercise, you truly stepped up and made incredible things happen even during the throes of a pandemic. I know you were instrumental in actively encouraging all our constituents to be counted!”
After an email to Horther on Sept. 29, an automatic reply popped up that said, “Thank you for contacting the U.S. Census Bureau. I have completed my service with the 2020 Census.”
So, with both media contacts departed, there are no new data on efforts to continue counting people here.
For Zumel, the census is a topic of great frustration.
“Minority and immigrant populations have historically been undercounted,” she said. “But the heightened feeling of mistrust of the census may ultimately lead to an undercount of minorities and immigrants in Teton County.”
Uncertainty about the census isn’t just local.
There’s even fighting on whether census data collection ended Sept. 30 or Oct. 5 or will continue through the end of the month.
The AP reported Sept. 25 that U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh stopped the 2020 census count from ending at the beginning of October.
However, on Monday, the Trump administration asked appellate judges to suspend the lower court order putting an immediate end to the count, to meet the Dec. 31 deadline for turning in apportionment numbers.
The census website reports only seven states with less than 99% of the state population counted. As of Tuesday, 60% of Wyoming residents had responded to the census while only 39% of Teton County residents had.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, census workers counted another 39% of Wyoming’s population using nonresponse follow-ups.
The website said the bureau visited each household not counted through self-response to ensure a complete and accurate 2020 count.