With our beaches and charming old homes and cruise ports, Galveston is a year-round destination for visitors and vacationers from across the United States and beyond.

In addition, our little island is a scant 60 minutes from one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States, making it an easy drive for millions of people who live close by.

Many of those visitors and vacationers fall in love with the island and buy second homes here. We are also very lucky to have hundreds and hundreds of people here on the island who may not be permanent residents, but they live here for months and even years, attending our world-class colleges and universities.

All these wonderful factors make Galveston Island a bit unusual in terms of a census count, so let’s talk about who gets counted and where.

The census count is performed by residence, so invitations to respond to the census (expected to start arriving in mid-March) will come to each residence by mail. For most people, responding is quite straightforward: they will respond for the home or apartment they own or rent.

In the case of families with two homes, however, there is a little more to think about. The census questionnaire does not allow you to “split” your time between residences. You must pick one. For families with second residences, both residences will get an invitation to respond to the census. The head of household will have to decide which residence to respond for.

The choice should not be tied to “permanent address” or “where my driver’s license says I live” or “where I’m registered to vote.” Instead, the determining criterion for which address to respond for is simply where you live and sleep most of the time.

If you bought your Galveston house as a second home, but you now spend four nights a week in Galveston and three in Houston, use your Galveston address. If you spend weekdays in Houston but weekends in Galveston, use your Houston address. It’s that simple.

For students at our colleges and universities, you may think your family should count you at your permanent address, but if you live and sleep most of the time in Galveston, get counted in Galveston. And remember to count everyone under your roof, so count your college roommates too.

The census count determines federal funding for critical services in Galveston, so if you drive on our streets, visit our hospitals, use our police and ambulances, consider yourself an islander and count yourself here.

If you have more questions about this or any census-related topic, visit www.2020census.gov. You will find a wealth of information there.

Joan Oelze is a volunteer on the city council-appointed Galveston Complete Count committee and lives in Galveston.

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(2) comments

Miceal O'Laochdha

Question for Ms. Oelze: Do the various states utilize census data to track the residence of taxpayers?

Jose' Boix

I did not know these 2 facts regarding the Census:

1. If you bought your Galveston house as a second home, but you now spend four nights a week in Galveston and three in Houston, use your Galveston address. If you spend weekdays in Houston but weekends in Galveston, use your Houston address. It’s that simple."

2. For students at our colleges and universities, you may think your family should count you at your permanent address, but if you live and sleep most of the time in Galveston, get counted in Galveston. And remember to count everyone under your roof, so count your college roommates too.

So it is up to the individual completing the Census form to make those decisions, and perhaps fill two forms - one for each home/property. Then the Census folks must somehow check that it is not "double count" and do some editing/enforcement? And for the students in a "dorm" it says to "count your college roommates too." This does not seem proper as it seems that would lead to once again "double counting."

Just my thoughts.

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