Pinal County Prepares for the 2020 Census

by Blake Herzog

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors discussed preparation for the 2020 Census count with county staff during a Nov. 13 meeting, with Public Information Officer Steve Frazier saying a “blitz” of social media posts and other awareness efforts are on the way.

Officials have been working since early 2017 with the U.S. Census Bureau to get the agency the information it needs to reach every household in the county, Frazier told the board. “Our GIS (group) goes through every address in the county. Tens of thousands of addresses have been changed or added,” he said.

“We’ve reached the point where they have all the data they need to begin to start their outreach and contacting households. There begins our work for outreach and getting the word out,” he said.

Census workers will try to reach every address the county has provided, first with a postcard in March advising residents of their options for responding to the 10-year count, mandated in the Constitution. If they don’t participate by email, phone or some other method by April 1, someone will be sent out to their doorstep.

Frazier said that will be one of the things county publicity materials will try to hammer home: “If citizens don’t respond to one of those, they will send a worker to their house, that’s part of the encouragement. Do it online, do it by one of these methods, or otherwise somebody’s going to visit, and they usually are pretty persistent.”

Counties across Arizona are bringing cities and other stakeholders into “complete count committees” to coordinate efforts to publicize the coming of the census and the benefits of participating, such as increased federal and state funding for schools, roads and other services.
“As we hit 2020 we start mobilizing our communication network into getting into that blitz of advertising,” Frazier said.

After Board Chairman Mike Goodman and District 1 Supervisor Pete Rios suggested buying ads on the AM “oldies” radio station out of Globe they listen to, District 4 Supervisor Anthony Smith asked whether social media platforms beyond Facebook will be used to reach younger residents, who are prevalent in areas like the San Tan Valley and city of Maricopa.

“I think we just need to be, and you’ve given me assurances that you’ll have it well thought out, communicating with that 20-30 age group, because the golden oldies station is not going to reach them, either,” he said, laughing.

Frazier replied, “Social media will be the main platform for getting a lot of this word out there.”

Rios also suggested the county use Spanish-language materials to reach out to its Latino community, noting their response to the 2010 census was dampened by the concurrent approval of Arizona’s SB 1070 law, which in part authorized local law enforcement to act as immigration officials.

Frazier said he intends to use the extensive materials available in Spanish on the Census’ portal, and added, “we have great technology now through social media to target specific groups like that.”