Drew Butler

A new hashtag will soon be popping up all over social media to encourage the citizens of Carter County to participate in the 2020 census. Local leaders and officials are asked to post a quick video or picture accompanied by the hashtag #CarterCounts as a way to start conversations about why the census is so important. Federal funds are distributed based on population, and in order to receive the maximum amount of funding for the area the federal government needs to know how many people reside in it.

The new hashtag is the brainchild of Ardmore Literacy Leadership Executive Director and Census Complete Count Committee member Ari James. James created the hashtag after hearing about similar social media projects being successful in other areas.

“A friend of mine in another state is involved in the census, and they said having public officials, police officers, teachers, business professionals, nonprofit directors — anyone who was willing to participate — post a quick video about how federal funding impacts their sector,” James said. “Then they challenge people from the area or a neighboring county to make a video to get more people talking.”

To get the ball rolling, James is contacting people in Carter County and Pontotoc County to participate. In addition to the intense football rivalry between Ardmore and Ada, both counties currently have census participation rates of around 40%.

“About 43% of people in Carter County and about 39% of people in Pontotoc County have completed their census so far,” James said. “There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, and I feel like that extra four or five percent can make for good bragging rights.”

James said the census relies on door to door census takers to boost participation, but right now those plans are up in the air because of the pandemic.

“Right now we don’t know if extra measures will be taken to help offset the lack of in-person visits that we were hoping would boost our numbers,” James said. “Since we’re not able to do a lot of those things we’re having to do a lot more via word-of-mouth online. This is just a way to try to get people talking about the census.”

James said the hashtags for the counties are #CarterCounts and #PontotocCounts. Everyone is encouraged to participate and call others out to do the same. Graphics to use in videos or photos will be available at facebook.com/ArdLitLead.