Montana 2020 Census Newsletter

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Census Count Ended October 15

The U.S. Census Bureau ended its count of U.S. residents at the end of the day on Thursday, October 15  after a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Bureau to end the decennial count early. Responding to the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19 this spring, the U.S. Census Bureau set October 31 as the deadline for the 2020 Census. The Bureau later reversed course and cut short the deadline, spurring two months of court battles to extend the count.

Paper responses postmarked by October 15 and recevied by the Census by October 22, 2020 will be included in the count, according to the Bureau.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s response page, more than 300,000 households in Montana self-responded to the 2020 Census, for a self-response rate of 60.4 percent.


Montana’s self-response rate was achieved through the leadership of 2020 Census Complete Count Committee Chairman Lt. Governor Mike Cooney, and Co-Chairs Leonard Smith and Kathie Bailey and through the efforts of State and local Complete Count Committee members across the state.

The outreach and organization efforts of amazing partners, including the Native American Development Corporation, Western Native Voice, the Montana Nonprofit Association, Forward Montana Foundation and Missoula-based marketing firm Windfall, contributed to a tremendous final push to increase Montana's self-response rate. Additional funding from Governor Steve Bullock through the state’s Coronavirus Relief Funds made it possible to expand targeted outreach efforts.

In addition, 119 public libraries signed up to become “Be Counted” sites and offered their WiFi, computers, and phones to allow Montanans to respond, and colleges and universities worked to get the word out to students across the state.

Finally, the team at the Department of Commerce, including staff across multiple divisions and programs, did all they could to support partners and ensure Montanans understood why the 2020 Census matters. 

This will be the last regular newsletter for the 2020 Census. We are so grateful for your efforts! 

2020 Census State Championship Winners

Census State Champ Graphic

In September, the Montana Department of Commerce launched the 2020 Census State Championship to encourage counties and tribes in Montana to compete for the highest increase in self-response rate to the 2020 Census. The criteria to win were the largest percentage increase in self-response rates, as well as for the greatest increase in the number of households self-responding.

The winners will receive a trophy, in addition to bragging rights.


Greatest % increase in self-response:

Blaine County with 5.9%

Greatest increase in number of households self-responding

Yellowstone County with 1,189

Tribal Nations:

Greatest % increase in self-response:

Fort Peck Reservation with 9.6%

Greatest increase in number of households self-responding

Flathead Reservation with 355

Response to the 2020 Census

Households that did not self-respond to the Census were part of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Non-Response Follow-Up operations, where U.S. Census workers went door-to-door to follow up with households that had not yet responded to the Census. The Census Bureau reports that during this process, Census staff “accounted for” 39.5 percent of households in Montana for an overall 99.9 percent coverage rate, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

A 99.9 percent coverage rate does not mean a response was received from every household.  A household can be checked off for all of the following reasons and more:

  • The enumerator talked to the homeowner and got a response from the household (which is the most accurate outcome).
  • The enumerator got a proxy response for the household which could include information provided from a neighbor.
  • The Census used administrative records to record a response for the household.
  • It was determined the housing unit was vacant. This would include seasonal residences (e.g. cabin) or migrant housing.
  • It was determined the structure was not a housing unit which includes demolished, uninhabitable, business or structure other than housing (e.g. barn), or the housing unit didn’t exist.

Over the next few months, the U.S. Census Bureau will be reviewing the 2020 Census count efforts for inaccuracies and duplications.

The Census and Economic Information Center at the Montana Department of Commerce will begin responding to requests for information based on the results of the Census after the Bureau begins to release figures from the 2020 Census.


An accurate and complete count of all Montanans is critical for determining the federal funding distributed to the state – overall, more than $2 billion from 300 federal programs is allocated back to Montana based on Census information. The Census count also shapes local voting and school districts, and it determines whether Montana will receive a second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.




(TBD): Deliver Census Count to the President – federal statute requires it be delivered December 31, 2020 but news reports have indicated the Bureau is not sure the deadline is achievable given the shortness of time between the end of the counting and the end of the year.

(TBD): Process & Release Redistricting Data – the previous schedule was March 31, 2021