Secretary Williams on 2020 census: “We want Colorado counted”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with Gillian Winbourn and Rosemary Rodriguez of “Together We Count” today discussed efforts to ensure state residents get counted in the 2020 census. (SOS photo)

Secretary of State Wayne Williams told the founders of  “Together We Count” that he is committed to their efforts in getting residents to respond to the 2020 census.

The former El Paso County commissioner said he understands how important that information is for local government because a number of funding formulas – for transportation and human services, for example – are based on census data.

“We want people to be citizens when it comes to voting, but we still want an accurate census,” Williams said. “As a commissioner, I was active 10 years ago encouraging people to participate in the census, and I’m happy to do that again.

“We want Colorado counted.”

Williams and his senior staff met today with Rosemary Rodriguez and Gillian Winbourn of Together We Count, a group they formed that plans to utilize grassroots, businesses and civic and elected leaders to promote a complete population count.

Rodriguez is a well-known political figure, having served on the Denver City Council, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and the district director for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet. She said that last year she was told by someone who handles hunger programs that people were calling and asking to be taken off the list because of their immigration status.

“When I heard that, I thought ‘They’re not going to participate in a census,’” she told the secretary of state. “We’ve seen a lot of indicators that there is a lot of apprehension about government right now.”

The National Conference of State Legislatures lists on its website the populations that can be slow to respond to the U.S. Census Bureau, including the poor, non-English speakers and the homeless.

Commissioners Wayne Williams, left, and Sallie Clarke have a laugh after Clarke was mistakenly referred to as “Mr. Clarke” during her first day in office on Jan. 11, 2005. (Special to the SOS/The Gazette, Bryan Oller)

Her organization is looking at what will motivate people to participate, no matter their status. Rodriguez explained why she was interested in having Williams on board.

As a commissioner, Williams was active in transportation issues. He served on the Colorado State Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority. Populations figures are key to federal transportation funding

“All of us who have ever been a local elected official know that a whole bunch of funding formulas are guided by the census,” Williams said, “and so, yes, we care about the count.”

In addition, Rodriguez pointed to Williams’ reputation as secretary of state since he took office in 2015.

“I appreciate that a lot of your positions have been very bipartisan,” she told him.