By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Newton County could appeal census total
Placeholder Image

Newton County officials are convinced that the county has more than 100,000 people, and they’re crunching numbers to make a case to appeal the official 2010 U.S. Census count of 99,958.

By digitally overlaying 2010 Census counts for each census block on top of a county map composed of aerial photos, county staff can tell areas where the census may have underestimated or overestimated counts.

For example, in one small census block on the county’s western edge, the census data says that the area has four housing units and that only one person lives there. However, according to the county’s maps, the Lakeview Trail area has 11 apartment complex buildings and 17 single-family houses.

Geographic Information Systems employee Ernie Smith has been searching for areas like these where the census data may be an inaccurate. The most likely reason for an undercount is that census forms and follow-up workers did not make their way to particular addresses.

"We want to make sure the count is correct, and we think we have the data to support an argument for correcting the numbers," Smith said.

The county was expecting the 2010 population to be around 105,000, but Smith said those estimates were based on the growth patterns in place leading up to the 2000 Census. He said the last three years have had a completely different pattern from the rest of the decade, but reliable data has been hard to come by given the complexity of the foreclosure process and the failure of many banks and lending institutions.

"(The last three years) blew the model out of the water, and we were as affected as anywhere (in the county)," Smith said. "We were the crest of the growth wave."

If the census did undercount Newton's population, Smith said the difference would likely only be a few hundred people; however, that would still put Newton County over the 100,000 mark. In order to be as accurate as possible, Smith is also looking for areas where the census may have over counted the population.
When Smith identifies an area that may have been miscounted, he will first use tax assessor's data to see if the home is bank owned or owned by a person. Newton County had a 10.3 percent vacancy rate in 2010, according to data presented by the Atlanta Regional Commission, so some areas could have several housing units but a small population.

The next step will be for county officials to go to those areas to make sure that no major changes have occurred since the aerial photos were taken in 2008, Smith said.

Then the information will be presented to the Newton County Board of Commissioners, which will decide whether to appeal the count to the Census Bureau.

While the change would not affect state and federal representation, the 100,000 population level does trigger certain changes at the state and federal levels, including potential funding and reporting requirements.

The data would also be important in determining the redistricting of county commission districts.

According to the Census Bureau website, governments can begin appealing 2010 counts on June 1. The Census Bureau will not collect additional data to resolve any challenges, according to the website, but will use data provided by the appealing governments and existing data.