Santa Fe County used demographic data to choose who should be on its 2020 Census Complete Count Committee, based on which communities in the county are at greatest risk of an undercount. These include towns in the northern part of the county such as Pojoaque, Chimayó and Nambé, and towns in the mid-southern region such as Cerrillos and Madrid. Certain neighborhoods in Santa Fe will likely also pose problems.

"In anticipation of challenges with the 2020 Census that could lead to a severe undercount of our population, a consultant was hired to analyze and identify hard-to-count 2020 Census tracts, assist in identifying committee members, develop a plan, and coordinate the committee," Patricia Boies, director of Health and Human Services in the Santa Fe County Community Services Department  told commissioners at a meeting Tuesday. Board members unanimously voted in favor of the final appointments to the committee and voiced concerns about how an undercount could impact federal funding for critical services in their districts.

Based on data collected by analyst Krista Kelley with Motiva Corporation Consulting Group, the places in Santa Fe County where it will be hardest to get an accurate count include communities where less than 75% of the population mailed back their census forms in 2010, the average income is below $50,000, and where less than 15% of the population has access to the internet in their homes, as well as areas with high Hispanic, Native or elderly populations.

"The primary goal was to ensure that these demographics and communities have representation on the complete count committee," Boies said at the Tuesday meeting.

Kelley tells SFR a key part of the strategy is identifying individuals who are well-known and well-trusted by members of hard-to-count communities, including religious leaders, immigrants' rights advocates, medical services providers and school superintendents, to be part of the Complete Count Committee and future education and outreach efforts.

According to Kelley, Santa Fe County now has a valuable head start as a leader within the state when it comes to being prepared for the Census next April. "I don't know of any other counties who are using this data-driven approach," Kelley tells SFR, "and we anticipate that this, along with our close collaboration with surrounding pueblos, is what will end up really making a difference."

But New Mexico as a whole is still far, far behind.

The state had one of the lowest response rates in the country to the 2010 Census, and Kelley says she anticipates that "achieving a complete count is going to be even harder in 2020." Partly, she says, this is because of recent cuts to the federal census budget. The possible addition of a citizenship question is also likely to depress response rates. And to add to all that the transition to an electronic and telephonic census could lead to undercounts in demographics that are usually fairly reliable, such as older folks who are computer illiterate and can't hear well over the phone, but who are great at checking the mail. "Because of the changes in how the Census is delivered, we anticipate that seniors will have a much higher probability of undercount this year," says Kelley.

Clearly, there are a lot of obstacles yet to overcome, but the Santa Fe County 2020 Census Complete Count Committee, chaired by Santa Fe County Commissioner Henry Roybal, is now official and can get to work setting us up for success. The goal is as accurate a population tally as possible next year.

Here's the list of who else is on the committee:

  • Gabe Montoya, director of Special Projects with Pojoaque Pueblo
  • Marcela Diaz, executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido
  • Rodger Taylor, town of Galisteo community member
  • Michael Wright, town of Madrid community member
  • Deacon Andy Carrillo, Archdiocese of Santa Fe
  • Simon Brackley, president and CEO of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce
  • Julie Sanchez, program manager with City of Santa Fe
  • Tom Marking, volunteer with the American Association of Retired Persons
  • Anna War, program manager for the Santa Fe County Senior Program
  • Katherine Freeman, president and CEO of United Way
  • Elias Bernandino, chief data analyst/analytics officer with Santa Fe Public Schools
  • Attiana Virella-Fuentes, coordinator at SFPS Adelante Program
  • Melville Morgan, superintendent at Pojoaque Valley School District
  • Rick Bailey, president of Northern New Mexico Community College
  • Linda Siegle, board chair at Santa Fe Community College
  • Larry Martinez, regional director at Presbyterian Medical Services
  • Kathy Armijo-Etre, vice president at Christus St. Vincent Hospital
  • Helen Brooks, Santa Fe administrator for Presbyterian Healthcare Services
  • Jay Jolly, CEO of La Familia Medical Center