Special Edition Network News: Call to Action: Help AZ complete the census

September 2, 2020

By Matt Ellsworth

The 2020 U.S. Census is happening right now, and we need your help!

We know that as Flinn-Brown Fellows, you appreciate the impact the census has on our state. Every ten years, it serves as our guiding tool for equal political representation and distribution of more than $675 billion in funding to support essential services and infrastructure provided to our local communities.

Arizona led the nation in the initial weeks of response and some Arizona cities and towns continue to lead the nation in response rates. However, our state traditionally faces obstacles in achieving a complete count due a population that is diverse, expansive and often impacted by political rhetoric that magnifies these challenges. The global pandemic has also exacerbated these traditional challenges by delaying all in-person outreach and operations and then cutting those operations short – Arizona’s 2020 Census could be the perfect storm for an undercount, but it’s critical that we remain focused on driving response.

Read on to learn about the challenge we face and what you can do, and then dig into the resources in the census toolkit.

The Challenge

Arizona is behind. As of today, 65.8% of households have been counted, well behind the national average of 73.9%. Here’s what’s at stake:

  • Estimates tell us that even a 1% undercount of Arizona households could result in a loss of $60 million in federal funding annually – that’s $600 million over the next decade.
  • Arizona is also positioned, based on its population growth over the past decade, for a 10th congressional seat. With current response rates, this seat is at risk.
  • Local communities will also be impacted by an undercount. Census data guides the distribution of state shared revenues and redistricting processes, thereby affecting every city, town, and county. And the census guides the planning of critical infrastructure, such as roads and broadband, and even how local businesses grow and expand.

Let’s look at the impact to some of Arizona’s communities:

Oro Valley vs. Somerton

Oro Valley, on the northern outskirts of Tucson, has a self-response rate of 76.2%, as compared to Somerton, just southwest of Yuma with 37.5%. The financial implication of this difference is approximately $3,000 per person annually for Somerton*. Somerton is also a community rich with diversity. When the new political boundaries are drawn, the population and characteristics of this community could be severely underrepresented. *Note: Conservative estimate of funding per person is based on 2016 data of 55 federally funded programs.

Maricopa County vs. Apache County

While Maricopa County leads the state with 65% of households self-responding, Apache County stands at 20.8%. The substantial difference between the two is a result of two main challenges. First, the disparity in connectivity between counties is substantial—it’s harder to reach these households to promote participation, and there is limited opportunity for residents to respond online. Second, operational delays have severely impacted Apache County in recent months because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Navajo Nation comprises a significant part of Apache County, and the majority of other households are some of the state’s most rural. Even where motivation exists to complete the census, Arizonans residing in Apache County have had reduced ability to respond since the end of June. Now, Apache County is experiencing the impact of a limited and rushed non-response follow-up effort.

The Bottom Line: The Census Matters!

Where do we need to target our efforts? Tribal Communities. Rural areas. Minority Neighborhoods.

Tribal and rural communities are the most impacted by operational changes caused by COVID-19, resulting in a shortened time period to self-respond and minimal opportunity to promote participation. This challenge also faces other traditionally undercounted communities: multifamily residents, undocumented individuals, and mixed-status households. In many instances, reaching these communities takes the encouragement of a census worker going door-to-door. We are doing our best, but the traditional challenges of reaching these communities, coupled with the impacts of COVID-19, hampers a true and accurate census count for the state.

The Solution: You can help!

As state-level leaders, we are urgently asking YOU to please step-up and be part of Arizona’s 2020 Census. Here are a few ways you can help before the census count concludes in September:

  • SOCIAL: We’re calling on all Fellows to engage on social media from personal and organization accounts the week of 8/31- 9/6. Use the toolkit linked below for sample posts, PSAs, video content and even a draft script to record your own PSA! Please remember to use the hashtag #AZCounts!
  • EMAIL: Send an email to any distribution lists you have access to – click below for a sample blurb to include as part of a longer email or a stand-alone email.
  • PARTNER: Have an idea for outreach? Please think about hosting a census completion drive or reach out to groups in your network to pass on information.
  • We are absolutely open to ideas! Email Arizona’s 2020 Census if you have an idea to partner.


We are just over a month away from the conclusion of the 2020 Census, and we are asking the Flinn-Brown Network of amazing civic leaders to join us in our work for a complete count of every Arizonan. The 2020 Census will shape the next decade for our state—so, please send an email, share information on social media, and/or let us know how you want to partner.

Let’s work together for Arizona’s Complete Count!

Alec Thompson

Alec Thomson
Arizona Complete Count Committee
2018 Flinn-Brown Fellow

Dawn Wallace


Dawn Wallace
Vice President
Arizona Center for Civic Leadership