Somervell County is lagging behind in its response to the U.S. Census Bureau questionnaire.

Census data shows that only 52 percent of those households receiving the questionnaires in the county have completed and returned them. The statewide census mail participation rate is 62 percent and the national rate is 69 percent.

Surrounding counties reported higher participation rates: Hood, 70 percent; Johnson, 68 percent; Erath; 61 percent; Bosque, 54 percent; and Hill, 58 percent.

The Census Bureau mailed questionnaires to millions of Texas homes in March. The deadline to mail back the form was April 16.

The Texas House Research Organization points out that the census has major implications for Texans. Census data is used to distribute voting seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Population changes also affect almost $600 billion a year in population-based funding to state and local governments, the agency said.

Texas currently has a population of more than 24 million, second only to California’s more than 36 million people.

The Census Bureau said that if 100 percent of households mailed back the forms, taxpayers would save $1.5 billion dollars.

In a few weeks census takers will begin visiting householders that did not return a census by mail. Census workers will be in the field from May 1 through July 10 to conduct interviews. The bureau said that workers will visit up to six times and leave a door hanger with a phone number on it for people to call to schedule a visit.

To avoid possible scams, here’s how to identify a census worker — they all carry government badges with just their name marked on them. You also make ask for a picture ID to confirm their identity. Some census workers also may carry a bag marked “U.S. Census Worker.” If you’re still not sure, call the Regional Census Center in Dallas at 214-267-6900.

If you didn’t receive a form, you also can still make sure you are still counted by calling the telephone questionnaire assistance line at 1-866-872-6868 and giving your answers over the phone.

By April 1, 2011, the Census Bureau will finish shipping redistricting data to the states. When the 82nd Texas Legislature convenes in January, it will redraw boundaries for legislative, congressional and State Board of Education districts.

For more information, visit 2010.census.gov.