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Several communities in Rural Georgia are claiming the 2020 Census undercounted their populations, and local officials are worried that this miscalculation will lead to long-term financial reverberations: disqualification for grants and less federal funding, among other things.

The communities in question: Chester, Glennville, and White County. 

As reported by The Christian Science Monitor:

“A combination of the pandemic and a lack of reliable broadband for filling out the census questionnaire online may have led to discrepancies in the counts in rural Georgia, said Heather Feldman, executive director of the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission.

“Unlike many areas of the country, Georgia was seeing extremely high cases of COVID-19,” Ms. Feldman said in an email. “Unlike the metro areas where the population is dense, door-to-door census counters may not have gone to harder to reach areas of rural counties.”

The scope of appeals allowed by the Census Bureau is narrow – mistakes in recording boundaries or housing skipped during data processing. Revisions to population and housing totals were made to about 1% of the nation’s 39,000 governments after the 2010 census. The census challenges won’t change the number of congressional seats each state gets or the numbers used for redrawing political districts.

Other communities have signaled they plan to challenge their census numbers, including several college towns and the cities of Boston and Detroit.

In the case of Chester, about halfway between Atlanta and Savannah, the 2020 census said it had only 525 people, which would mark a 67% decline in the population over the decade if it were true. The 2019 American Community Survey pegged the majority-Black town’s population at 2,102 residents, and city officials believe it has a minimum of 1,500 inhabitants.

Chester officials believe the headcount missed not only inmates at the Dodge State Prison but also residents in the town’s homes.“