2020 Census preps already underway

DANE COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV) -- While it’s interesting to see the population number change on the signs for our hometowns, census numbers account for a lot more than just that.

Experts say the data collected in the census helps determine where federal funding goes within each county.

"The census is hugely important, and I think people don't understand just how much it impacts every day of their lives,” says Dane County Board Supervisor Tanya Buckingham, District 24.

Buckingham says all areas of Dane County have seen a population increase since the last nationwide census in 2010. She’s hoping the 2020 census will provide more specific data, to put future funds to good use.

"The census really determines federal funding. So the money that we get in local government is determined by how many people we have, and who's here and all of that,” she says.

Buckingham and fellow supervisors head the Complete Count Committee, already working to get data from all corners of Dane County.

The Complete Count Committee specifically works to count historically underrepresented populations, like children, people who are homeless, minorities or immigrants.

She says all personal information on the census will be kept anonymous.

“People are a little bit nervous about it right now … about the possibility that they could be singled out. And that’s not the way the census works at all,” Buckingham says. "So it's really important that people understand that their information is aggregated. So they're one of many who are counted. And there's never at time with the census where you'd be able to drill down to a specific person."

The extra data Buckingham hopes to collect could change the types of programs and resources the county will offer.

“Within Dane County itself, it's really important for us to know how our populations are changing so that we can make sure the services that we're disturbing are happening in the place where they need to be happening,” Buckingham explains.

In addition, census numbers could tackle a contentious issue in Wisconsin: redistricting.

“It impacts the way we draw our voting boundaries. And that’s really about representation. We want to make sure that everybody throughout our community is represented equally,” Buckingham tells NBC15 News.

After the census is complete, the Dane County Citizen Redistricting Commission will use 2020 data to make redistricting changes where necessary.

The census is set to take place in April 2020. It will be available primarily online, but also in designated areas for people without computers, like local libraries.

Census data will be tabulated by the United States Census Bureau in Washington, D.C. Changes on the maps likely won’t occur until 2022.

Ahead of that, the Complete Count Committee has become a nationwide push, to prepare Americans for the coming census. In Dane County, Complete Count Committee events will start up this summer.