As the 2020 census approaches, Virginia is taking extra steps to ensure its communities are ready to participate.

Last Wednesday, the Virginia Complete Count Commission held its monthly meeting at the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond. Established by Gov. Ralph Northam last December, the body brings together up to 40 voices with diverse backgrounds from across the state to “serve as a conduit” between the U.S. Census Bureau and Virginia.

Steered by Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson, the commission’s goal is clear: share thoughts and resources that lead to efficient systems and result in a complete count of Virginians, especially as the bureau encourages more people to fill out their census online.

“That’s why we need to continue to hear ideas from all of you,” Thomasson told the group.

Discussions ranged from types of messaging to include in information on outreach materials, to concerns over how to reach people who might use post office boxes instead of their home addresses. The meetings also regularly feature sessions on hard-to-count census populations, including seniors, incarcerated or homeless populations, assisted living communities and children.

For example, Voices for Virginia’s Children shared its messaging flyer, with a big bold headline that reads “COUNT YOUR KIDS!” A recent release from the governor’s officeexplains why, as Virginia had the eighth highest amount of undercounted kids nationwide in 2010.

“We can’t tell people enough about the census,” Thomasson said.

We agree. Let’s recognize and report issues before they happen, not wait until after the census is completed and learn Virginia suffered from an undercount. This is a financial concern for critical programs. We encourage readers to prepare now and work with local and state officials to learn about the process, key deadlines and the options available for their households.

To stay connected, visit commonwealth.virginia.gov/completecount for more information, including the location of your closest local complete count committee. To report issues or ask questions, email virginiacompletecount@governor.virginia.gov or call 804-786-2211.

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