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State senators sound alarm on low Census response rate in Eastern Washington

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YAKIMA COUNTY -- With only about a month left until the U.S. Census Bureau ends its 2020 count, state legislators here in Eastern Washington are sounding the alarm about low response rates, saying we could lose representation in Olympia and in Washington D.C.

Data show a significantly higher response rate in King County, compared to Yakima and surrounding counties. So far about 75 percent of households have filled out the census in King County, while only about 64 percent in Yakima and 54 percent in Kittitas County.

"Seeing how it's only once every ten years, it could mean great harm to our communities if people don't do their civic duty," says Paul Tabayoyon, with the Yakama-Yakima el Censo 2020 Coalition.

Not only does the Census data inform where resources are allocated for things like schools and fire departments, but it also determines new boundaries for legislative and congressional districts. Redistricting will take place after the Census numbers are finalized this fall.

"If our people really want to be competitive and have a voice in Olympia, it's important that we get these returns made," says Republican State Senator Jim Honeyford.

While some people may already feel like their voices here in Eastern Washington are drowned out by those in the Seattle area, Honeyford says if these low response trends continue, the region could eventually lose a legislative seat in Olympia.

"I do not believe that the people in rural Washington want the same thing that you find going on in Seattle right now," says Honeyford.

Local groups are trying to reach Latino and Native American communities to make sure our count is as accurate as possible.

"We actually have the Yakama Nation which is split by the 14th and 15th district which means they have, at one point in time, been disenfranchised from actually having a political say as a unified nation in the state of Washington," says Tabayoyon, someone who's doing outreach in low response rate areas.

Tabayoyon says what makes things even more challenging is that they're under an even bigger time crunch, after it was announced that the Census Bureau would end its count a month early.

"Hopefully our community will do their best, and their civic duty to step up" says Tabayoyon. "And actually document that Yakima County has an increase in population, rather than a decrease in population."

Tabayoyon says they're looking for local businesses, like grocery stores, that would be willing to let them set up a booth to people fill out their Census. If you'd be willing to allow them to do this, you can reach Tabayoyon at On Sunday, Census workers will be at the Downtown Yakima Farmers Market, and there they'll be able to help anyone fill the questionnaire out if they haven't done so already.

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People have until September 30 to complete the Census, whether that's online, by mail, or over the phone.

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