September 15, 2021 / Modified sep 15, 2021 7:32 p.m.

Pinal County officials consider challenging census results

County's population was smaller than expected, officials say

360 tucson census bureau The entrance to the U.S. Census Bureau's office in Tucson.
Jeff Landers/AZPM Staff

Pinal County officials are considering a formal challenge to the results of the 2020 census, which tallied far fewer people in the county than expected.

The county has seen a boom in new housing in recent years and County Attorney Kent Volkmer told the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday that local officials anticipated last year's census would show the county had a population between 465,000 and 490,000.

Instead, the census said the county had a population of about 425,000.

"They are showing again what was considered minimal growth when we were expecting exponential growth," he told the board.

The tally for Pinal County is an increase of about 50,000 from a decade earlier.

And in a statement, the U.S. Census Bureau said the results from 2020 so far are in line with overall benchmarks.

But Volkmer suspects the census undercounted local residents with lower incomes and residents who do not speak English.

Throughout the census, local officials across the country and other observers have raised concerns that similar communities could be undercounted due to a range of issues, from changes in the counting process to the COVID-19 pandemic and a controversial push by the Trump administration to include a question on citizenship.

A recent review by The Associated Press found that in many places, including parts of Arizona, the share of the Hispanic and Black populations in the newest census figures fell below estimates and an annual Census Bureau survey.

An undercount can have long term consequences. Data from the census is used by businesses and academic researchers. The data informs how governments allocate funding and determines how many seats each state receives in Congress as well as how legislative district boundaries are drawn. While Arizona was expected to receive a tenth seat due to its growing population, for example, it did not get one.

Volkmer said the county could ask the U.S. Census Bureau to revise its tally through a process that starts in January.

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