SALEM — With the start of the 2020 Census less than two years away, preparations for the decennial count of the nation’s residents have already begun in Oregon.
The stakes are high for the Beaver State: Oregon stands to gain a seat in Congress if current population estimates hold. The government uses the census to draw and apportion voting districts, assign Electoral College votes and distribute federal funding.
Two key parts of the prep are now underway.
First, the state, cities and counties are working on an address-verification process called the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) Operation. Local governments and the state are comparing the address information they have in disparate databases against what the census has to ensure the Census Bureau’s addresses are as complete as possible.
“It’s all a matter of just trying to get the best census count, ultimately,” said Cy Smith, the state’s Geospatial Enterprise Officer, who is leading the address validation efforts for state government.
The state has a little more than three months left to finish that part of the census preparations, Smith said.
All 36 of Oregon’s counties are participating in the address validation process, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, as are over 200 Oregon cities.
All entities participating, including the state, have to sign a confidentiality agreement, according to Smith, because census addresses are protected by Title XIII of the U.S. Code.
Second, the Oregon Legislature this year approved funding for a census coordinator located in the Governor’s Office.
The temporary employee will coordinate the state’s efforts “to ensure an accurate census count” in 2020, according to a legislative budget report.
Lawmakers appropriated $230,772 through mid-2019, when the state’s current two-year budget ends, for the position. The position is expected to be renewed for 18 months into the 2019-21 biennium.
Typically, the federal government pays for that coordinator, but isn’t for this census, prompting the request in the recently-concluded legislative session, according to the Governor’s Office.
Oregon is expected to gain a sixth seat in the House of Representatives if estimates hold, according to Election Data Services, a Virginia political consulting firm that analyzes census and political data.
Oregon’s population has grown by 8.1 percent since 2010, according to the Census Bureau.