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Lagging Census Participation Threatens Second House Seat

A five-member commission tasked with redrawing Montana’s legislative boundaries following the 2020 census has shared frustrations over the state’s response rate in Native communities and other rural areas. The commission has cited the COVID-19 pandemic as the main reason for the disappointing rate of return.

On June 14, Republican Jeff Essmann of Billings told media that an expected second U.S. House seat may be threatened by the low numbers.

Montana Department of Commerce Census bureau chief Mary Craigle told the commission that just over half of Montana households, 51.7 percent, had responded to the census as of June 5. According to Craigle, Montana’s response rate is 9 percentage points behind the nation as a whole.

Craigle’s data indicates that response rates are far lower in many rural parts of the state. Response rates are even lower in some rural Native communities.

Counties listed as lacking adequate census employees include Daniels, Carter, Judith Basin, Powder River, Prairie, Treasure and Valley. Tribal communities lacking census takers include Fort Belknap, Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations.

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