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Lake County, Already A Top Census Responder, Pushes For Full Count

Lake County officials hope to focus in some lower-response parts of the county in the final month of the 2020 Census. [U.S. Census Bureau]
Lake County officials hope to focus in some lower-response parts of the county in the final month of the 2020 Census.

Lake County officials hope to boost their area’s U.S. Census response rate as the decennial count enters its final month.

So far, 77 percent of the county’s households have filled out the census online, by phone or by mail. That self-response rate puts Lake County in sixth place in Ohio. Still, officials want to do better.

“Compared to the rest of the state, we’re extremely pleased with the numbers we’re seeing,” County Commissioner John Hamercheck told ideastream. “But considering our plans before this whole COVID situation, it’s frustrating. Our goal was to be high 80s, low 90s.”

As census enumerators knock on doors, the county is investing in Laketran bus ads, radio spots and mailers, county project coordinator Donna Tyson said.

“It’s not cheap to do this, but we find that we have a couple of communities out here that basically only get their mail through a P.O. box, and the census doesn’t deliver to P.O. boxes,” she said.

The advertising will be in English and Spanish as much as possible, part of an effort to reach Lake County’s many Latino residents, Tyson said.

Painesville, the county seat, has the lowest self-response rate at 54 percent. Local census advocates are focusing their final push there, in Fairport Harbor and in Wickliffe, planning and community development director David Radachy said.

If 23 percent of households remain uncounted, he said, the census would miss thousands of people in Lake County.

“About 54,000 people would go uncounted in Lake County, and that’s the size of Mentor-on-the-Lake and Mentor combined,” Radachy said. “And that’s a huge hole in Lake County.”

Medina County leads the state with a self-response rate of almost 82 percent. Geauga County, at nearly 79 percent, is the third highest self-responder in Ohio. Cuyahoga County’s self-response rate, about 66 percent, places it 61st out of 88 counties, with Cleveland ranking as one of the lowest responding metropolitan areas in the country.

Last month, Northeast Ohio nonprofits urged the U.S. Census Bureau to reverse a decision to end the count Sept. 30 rather than Oct. 31.

The 2010 Census counted about 230,000 people in Lake County. The population has grown slightly, to about 230,500, according to 2018 American Community Survey annual estimates. 

A full count is critical because a decade of federal funding is at stake, Tyson said.

“We’ve got 10 years,” she said, “and whatever goes in on Oct. 1, we’re stuck with.”

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.