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Originally published Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 12:15 PM

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Some counties slacking off on returning census forms

In San Juan County, which encompasses a chain of islands by the same name, only 36 percent of households had returned their census forms as of late Thursday — Census Day. That's the lowest response rate of any county in the state and one of the lowest in the country. Columbia County in southeast Washington had the highest rate: 61 percent.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Across the state, 52 percent of households had mailed back their 2010 census forms as of Census Day — Thursday.

Have you?

Not so many have in San Juan County, which encompasses a chain of islands by the same name. Only 36 percent of households had returned their forms as of late Thursday — the lowest response rate of any county in the state and among the lowest in the country.

"Yea, we are kinda low," Debbie Emery, a county administrative assistant, said sheepishly.

The national response rate is 54 percent.

Emery, who serves on a liaison committee for the county and the Census Bureau, said part of the problem is that many island residents have post-office boxes, and the bureau does not mail forms to that type of address.

She said those households hopefully will be counted when census takers begin going door to door in May. San Juan County also had the state's lowest response rate 10 years ago.

"Of course we are concerned about it," Emery said. "We want to make sure our people are counted because we need the money coming back."

Columbia County in the southeast corner of the state had the highest response rate so far, at 61 percent. The rate is 50 percent in both King County and Seattle.

Check out your neighborhood and other areas: http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map/

In March, the Census Bureau mailed or hand-delivered about 134 million 2010 forms to U.S. households.

Thursday's Census Day was not necessarily a deadline, but rather is the official reference date for the once-a-decade count, serving as the benchmark for the nation's population count over the next decade.

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The federal government allocates more than $400 billion a year to state and local governments based on survey results. The census also helps apportion seats in the U.S. Congress.

Bureau officials say those who have still not received a form may pick one up at local questionnaire centers, which include most library branches. Center locations can be found here: http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map/

After April 12, those who still need a form may call 1-866-872-6868 to ask that one be mailed to them.

Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or lturnbull@seattletimes.com

Check the response rate in your neighborhood, city, county, state: http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map/

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