As the 2020 Census concluded, Darlington County had far to go
By Samantha Lyles
Census 2020 entered the home stretch last week, and Darlington County had a lot of ground to make up before hitting the Oct. 5 finish line. While data from 2020Census.gov indicated that 98 percent of American households had been counted as of Sept. 24, Darlington County’s self-response rate was just 52.9 percent, ranking us 30th of 46 South Carolina counties. Of the state’s seven congressional districts, our District 7 (encompassing parts of eight counties across northeastern South Carolina) ranked dead last with a self-response rate of just 51.1 percent. To help bump up our state’s numbers, Lt. Gov. Pamela S. Evette, chairwoman of the S.C. Governor’s Complete Count Commission (CCC), launched a series of “Day of Action” challenges to encourage community engagement. Darlington County partnered with the United Way to organize its “Day of Action,” Sept. 26 at Darlington Middle School. Citizens who attended were able to complete their 2020 Census, register to vote, get a flu vaccine, get tested for COVID-19, join the county library system and get information from various community partners. “All South Carolinians need access to these critical services and to complete the census. Widespread COVID testing and flu vaccination will help keep our economy moving this winter and a complete count for the Census will ensure we continue to grow and recruit new employers to the area for the next 10 years,” Evette stated. “Completing the Census has a significant impact in our community. It helps provide school lunches, plan for highways, get support for first responders, and other everyday needs in Darlington County,” said County Administrator Charles Stewart. Other partners included Darlington County Voter Registration, Darlington County Library System and other county departments, Darlington County School District, Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center and Coker University. Census takers were out in higher numbers over the past two weeks, attempting to gather reports from households that had not yet completed their forms. According to 2020Census.gov, 31.9 percent of completed forms nationwide were counted by Census takers and other field data collection operations, and 66.5 percent of households responded online, by phone or by mail. The U.S. Census Bureau even made a special effort to count homeless persons through its Service-Based Enumeration (SBE) plan, using specially trained Census takers to count people at shelters, soup kitchens and mobile food van stops from Sept. 22-24. Census takers also worked to count people living outdoors, in transit stations, and at other locations where the homeless are known to sleep. These efforts were all taking place during a compressed time frame, as Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced on Sept. 28 that 2020 Census self-response and field data collection operations would conclude on Oct. 5 instead of Oct. 31. As to whether South Carolina and Darlington County’s last minute sprint made any impact, the numbers will tell the tale – but that data won’t be tabulated, verified and distributed until next year. By March 31, 2021, the Census Bureau will send redistricting counts to the states, and this information will be used to redraw our legislative districts based on population changes. To learn more, visit www.2020Census.gov.