Fewer New Mexicans turn in census

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Workers began going door-to-door Saturday

By Sue M. Holmes

ALBUQUERQUE — Census workers faced a big job when they began going door to door Saturday to interview people who didn’t mail in their questionaires because New Mexico residents returned their forms at a lower rate than almost any other state.

The Census Bureau’s preliminary state-by-state figures show 63 percent of New Mexicans mailed back their 2010 forms, falling below the 65 percent rate for the last census in 2000. The national rate was 72 percent that year, the same as this year’s mail-in rate.

Only Alaska, at 62 percent, fell behind New Mexico.

The census announced this week 28 states have matched or exceeded their 2000 mail-in rates, and 11 others came within a percentage point of doing so.

The count is important to states because it’s used to distribute billions of dollars in federal aid, apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and draw boundaries of congressional, legislative and other elective office districts.

The biggest gaps in New Mexico seem to be in rural areas, said a Census Bureau spokeswoman in Albuquerque, Veronica A. Reyes.

“Maybe people (in rural areas) have not been as aware of how crucial

participation is,” Reyes said. Some also might fear where the information is going or how it will be used, she said.

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