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Census return rate 'above average'

Roberto Trevino, left, a representative for Questionnaire Assistance Center of the Census Bureau, answers questions for Lisa Liebl Friday at the Willmar Public Library. Trevino will be available to hand out forms and answer any questions about the census Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the library from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m through May 12. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- So far just 62 percent of Kandiyohi County residents have returned their census forms.

Although it's on par with the state average and well above the national rate of 54 percent, Kandiyohi County is one of the lowest compared to other regional counties.

As of Friday, most area counties had a return rate of 67-69 percent.

Census 2010 reported that 71 percent of McLeod County residents who received their forms in the mail have returned them.

Renville County had 66 percent, Swift and Yellow Medicine counties were at 67 percent and Lac qui Parle County had 69 percent of the forms returned.

Only Pope County was lower than Kandiyohi County with a return rate of 58 percent.

Kandiyohi County has some of the lowest participating cities in the area.

Willmar has returned 64 percent and Spicer 59 percent.

Kevin Halliday, Willmar city clerk and a member of the Willmar Complete Count Committee, said he's not going to get too worried until mid-April or May when the "snowbirds" return.

"That could be a chunk from Willmar," he said.

He estimated there could be several hundred Kandiyohi County residents living in places like Arizona and Florida for the winter.

Those he spoke to last fall were "adamant they will not fill out their Arizona questionnaire," said Halliday. "They're doing exactly what we asked them to do."

If the rates don't increase, Halliday said the committee may have to look at a second wave of efforts to get people to return the census forms, but he said he doesn't know what that magic percentage rate is before action is needed.

"At what point do we flog people?" he asked jokingly.

"We'll see how April goes," he said. "I'm not going to get alarmed until May 1 when all the snowbirds come home."

The committee is running information on the WRAC 8 local access channel in three different languages, Halliday said.

He said a leader from the local Somali community is helping people fill out their forms and is "making a good effort" to make sure correct data from that population are being reported.

Halliday said he is concerned about anecdotal information that some people have not received their census forms. Standard forms, in five different languages, are available at city and county offices if someone believes they did not receive a form in the mail, or perhaps mistakenly threw their form away.

He said he's handed out three standard forms in the last two days.

Individuals who receive their mail at a post-office box will have their forms hand-delivered by a worker for the Census Bureau.

Halliday said he hopes Kandiyohi County beats its 2000 return rate of 76 percent, which was higher than the national rate of 72 percent, but below the state average of 78 percent.

That kind of a return is "pathetically low," said Halliday.

He said there's no reason why the county shouldn't have a return rate that's in the high 90s.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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