My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Archive for May, 2009

Telemundo & the 2010 Census

Friday, May 8th, 2009

If you thought that murder, rape, and drug abuse were the best stories to propel the plots of soap operas, think again, as these days it’s the 2010 Census that will keep telenovela audiences coming back for more:

Laura Martínez — Multichannel News, 2/18/2009 1:53:13 PM MT

When Spanish-language TV viewers tune in this spring for their daily fix of drama, their Telemundo telenovela will feature a tale of betrayal, passion, love — and Census awareness.

Starting April 1, Telemundo will kick off a company wide campaign to raise awareness among Spanish speaking Latinos about the upcoming 2010 Census and the importance of their participation in the process. Aptly named “¡Hazte contar!” (Be Counted!) the initiative will encompass all of Telemundo’s properties and is expected to last for one full year.

In addition to incorporating the Census theme into the storyline of its original telenovelas, Telemundo’s campaign is expected to encompass all of its properties across its broadcast, cable and digital platforms, as the company plans to reach not only the older, Spanish dominant viewers, but also the younger generations watching mun2 online and on the Web.

The idea, said Telemundo president Don Browne, is simple: “Our mission as a Hispanic media outlet is to inform, empower and inspire our audience,” Browne said in a recent interview. “And we cannot afford for our audience not to be ready for the [2010] Census.”

An important aspect of the Census awareness campaign touches on the scores of undocumented immigrants, who historically have been afraid of participating, fearing the census workers would turn them in if their migratory status isn’t clear. “There is certain fear that participating that giving information could be detrimental to their status,” said Browne. “But the idea here is that people don’t fear this process. It’s not a time to be invisible; it’s a time to be counted.”

There is a lot at stake. According to the Census Bureau’s 2007 American Community Survey, 45.5 million or 15.1% of the U.S. population is Hispanic, making it the largest and fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S. Based on population estimates, it is expected that between 2010 and 2050 the U.S. Hispanic population will triple, resulting in one in three people in the U.S. being of Hispanic origin.

But the Census is only the latest in a series of community-awareness topics that Telemundo has incorporated in its telenovelas. These include construction safety, diabetes, breast cancer awareness and citizenship awareness. In 2008 the network was recognized by the Hollywood, Health & Society for the construction safety-themed telenovela Pecados Ajenos (The Sins of Others) whose drama touched on the perils of construction work.

Robert M. Groves’ Senate questionnaire

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

The Associated Press obtained a copy of Census Director-to-be Robert M. Groves’ 41-page questionnaire that was required in preparation for his upcoming Senate confirmation hearing. MyTwoCensus has made requests to obtain this document so that we may analyze it in full. For now, here are the most interesting tidbits:

1. Groves defended his push for statistical sampling in the 1990 census to make up for an undercount of millions of mostly minorities, who tend to vote for Democrats — a move that was then decried by the Republican commerce secretary as political tampering.

2. While Groves said the use of sampling in 2010 was unlikely given the little time remaining, he would not say whether he would support other measures such as a government halt to immigration raids. “I will work with all agencies of government to assure the best census this country can achieve,” Groves wrote when asked if he would seek to scale back enforcement.

3. On matters of science, Groves was unequivocal. “The White House can have no role,” he said. “If the director is perceived to be a pawn of one or another political ideological perspective, the credibility of the statistical system is threatened.”

4. Groves said if he encounters undue partisan interference from the White House or elsewhere that he cannot resist, “I will resign and work outside the system to stop the abuse.”

5. In his questionnaire, Groves cast the Census Bureau as woefully outdated, saying it lacks scientific talent due to a recent and upcoming wave of retirements.

6. In his questionnaire, Groves acknowledged he lacked extensive management experience to run the bureau’s sprawling operations but said he was up to the task.

Marc Morial to lead Census Advisory Committee

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

Before reading this press release, check out some biographical information on Marc Morial.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE THURSDAY, MAY 7, 2009

Raul Cisneros
CB09-CN.06
Public Information Office
301-763-3691
e-mail: <pio@census.gov>

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke Appoints Marc Morial to Lead 2010 Census Advisory Committee

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke has named National Urban League President Marc Morial as chair of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 Census Advisory Committee, which provides advice on the design and implementation of the 2010 Census.

“Marc has extraordinary experience in working with national organizations and advocating on behalf of diverse communities,” said Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. “His expertise will help to ensure a complete and accurate count during the 2010 Census.”

Twenty organizations are represented on the 2010 Census Advisory Committee, including data users and experts in the statutory and constitutional uses of decennial census data. The committee membership also includes ex-officio members representing the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

“The 2010 Census Advisory Committee provides important advice and guidance to the U.S. Census Bureau and we look forward to working with Marc Morial,” said Census Bureau Acting Director Tom Mesenbourg. “His leadership and experience will be vital as we approach the 2010 Census.”

Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League since 2003, leads the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Morial served two terms as mayor of New Orleans from 1994 to 2002 and was also president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors from 2001 to 2002. He made Ebony Magazine’s list of the150 most influential people in 2009.

The Census is mandated by the Constitution. The questionnaire for the upcoming 2010 Census will be one of the shortest in history: just 10 questions that will take only about 10  minutes  to complete. All responses are kept strictly confidential. The Census  data  are  used  to  apportion  the  seats  in  the  U.S.  House of Representatives.  Census  data  are  also used to distribute more than $300 billion in federal funds each year.

Employee Blasts Census Bureau Deficiencies

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

With permission from the author  (who has requested anonymity), we are posting the following analysis of the multitude of problems facing the 2010 Census:

2010 Census = Government Waste

For years, as a student and grant writer I have worked with United States Census data. Despite its shortcomings, I had always considered the U.S. Census one of the good actions of American government. For all of the corruption and oppression America commits at home and abroad, the U.S. Census has been one of the things I have had a fair amount of faith in. That is until I got involved on the data collection end of things. The experience I had is enough to turn you into a Republican.

Due to my familiarity with and interest in the U.S. Census I decided to answer the call for temporary Census workers. I replied to an ad, took a test, and got a job. Though not without shortcomings, this process went smooth enough. Once I entered the four-day training “designed” to teach me how to conduct address canvassing operations I realized that the U.S. Census is truly an example of government waste. People toss around the notion that government waste happens all of the time without any real first hand information. It’s just one of those uninformed, folk things people do. In the case of the U.S. Census, though, I can state confidently that it is unorganized at best, and I am being kind when I use a qualifier by saying that it ‘teeters on being corrupt.’

Ineptitude and Government Waste at its Finest

A big part of the problem with the execution of the on-the-ground phases of the U.S. Census is that the people hired to conduct them have no real interest in or knowledge of things like surveys, statistics, geography, urban planning, and related areas. 2010 U.S. Census corruptionTemporary workers are recruited on the basis of a job that provides good pay and is somewhat more interesting than working in retail. All sorts of people apply, but it is hardly the case that the people doing the hiring are looking for individuals with relevant experience or knowledge. The folks who conduct training and run things may have never heard of the Census prior to seeing an ad for a position with the Census Bureau.

The point of the address canvassing that is presently underway is to literally record each and every structure in the United States where people live or could live. The intent is to record every mailing address and every structure where someone might live to ensure that all households in the United States receive a Census form in 2010. Of course, this is an impossible task and the government is rightly criticized for even trying to do this every ten years (as opposed to merely drawing a sample), but that’s another story for another hub. Training is supposed to teach how this is done by defining terms (i.e., what is a housing unit?) and detailing protocol. The problem is that so much is left to an individual’s judgement. The process is portrayed as an objective one, yet it is clear that it has never been empirically tested and if it has its shortcomings were roundly ignored.

So many questions came up and were basically put up to debate. “Crew leaders” debated amongst one another as to what the proper answer was or how to handle a specific situation. The instructions that followed could not have been more subjective and surely varied widely from location to location. A case in point involved how to tell the difference between single-family and multi-family units. The area I worked in is the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. This is probably one of the most heavily populated places in the country. We were told that if we came upon a building and the units were ‘stacked’ we would automatically classify it as ‘multi-unit.’ There are several grave problems with this.

First, how do you know if you are unable to gain access to a residence or talk to an occupant if a unit is stacked or side-by-side? You don’t. And since we were repeatedly told to “figure it out” without requiring further assistance, we made judgement calls on the ground. Those calls are surely being made still as canvassing is ongoing.

Second, duplexes are common in Hollywood. Many are located in affluent neighborhoods. If a two-unit building has dwellings situated side-by-side, each unit is considered as separate single-family units according to the way my crew went about things. But if they were stacked, they would be considered multi-unit. This is absurd and inaccurate to anyone who has been in urban planning 101. But the real impact is that in some affluent Hollywood neighborhoods multi-unit buildings are being over-counted. This could impact how crucial funding is allocated to cities and neighborhoods as communities with more multi-unit buildings are generally considered needier than those with a greater number of single-family units.

The Worst is Yet to Come

I can come up with other issues similar to the one above. At the end of the day, I guess they are up for debate. But what follows is government corruption at its absolute worst.

Each address canvasser in the area my crew worked was given several census blocks to canvass. We needed, initially, to meet a quota of 160 addresses canvassed in an eight-hour day. It became clear early on that this was way too easy. Budget money was allocated for two months worth of work and with the high number of large apartment buildings being worked in Hollywood- and the general high density of the area- 160 addresses could be completed in less than half a day’s work. This posed a problem. At that rate we were on pace to finish the work much sooner than planned, thus leaving money on the table. The solution? Here is where the corruption comes in.

We were told to drop that number down to 120, but we were told to continue working an eight hour day. Wink, wink… nudge, nudge. Essentially we were being told… say you worked eight hours, complete 120 addresses so that we can use up all of the money budgeted to our crew for wages. Most of us worked an hour or two, maybe three… said we worked eight while most of the day we were hardly conducting Census business. I could not believe we were being instructed to do this. I have no reason to believe that this practice was not being duplicated throughout Los Angeles. And I am somewhat confident that it is probably happening across the country. This means that thousands- and likely millions- of taxpayer dollars are literally being wasted. It stings even more considering the economic times we are living through.

This might have made for a dry hub. I am not sure that anyone will even care, but I had to share. I think this ought to be of major national concern. President Obama… are you listening?

In a future hub, I will discuss the Census — and its other inherent problems — further.

Note: This article does not represent the opinions of MyTwoCensus.com, Stephen Robert Morse or Evan Goldin. The views expressed are those of the author. That said, MyTwoCensus welcomes written, video, photographic, and multimedia contributions from any individual with a 2010 Census-related story to tell.

Census Worker Held Up At Gunpoint

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

Are 2010 Census Questionnaires now as valuable as cash? Apparently so! In all seriousness, it’s terrible that the Census Bureau’s field workers are falling victim to criminals while going about their business. Here’s the report fro WTHR in Indiana:

Indianapolis – An armed man robbed a U.S. Census Bureau employee at gunpoint in an apartment complex on the northwest side.

“The guy comes up from behind and says, ‘Give me your wallet’,” said Michael McCord.

McCord stayed calm when a gunman surprised him as he went door to door at the Woods of Eagle Creek Apartments.

“I turned around and he showed me his gun, said he was serious and he wanted my wallet. So I gave it to him,” McCord said.

As he walked from one building to the next, knocking on doors, his attacker walked up behind him. The gunman never became menacing, the 61-year-old McCord says, but he knew not to aggravate someone armed with a weapon.

“The gun implied that my life was threatened, so I assumed to just give it up rather than try to keep my 15 dollars,” McCord said.

McCord says just before the suspect took off, he stopped him and asked him not to take everything.

“As he walked away, I said, ‘Can you at least let me have my driver’s license back?’ and he handed it to me,” McCord said.

McCord usually works and walks his census routes alone, but police say there’s an advantage to having someone else with you.

“I encourage people to do it in pairs, that way you will still have two people instead of one,” said IMPD Lt. Dawn Snyder.

The robbery didn’t scare McCord from his job, in fact, he’s already back at work.

He described the suspect as a black male, about 18-20 years old, 5’6″ tall and was wearing a blue and gray baseball cap, a gray hooded sweatshirt with writing on it.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 262-TIPS.

Long & Boring Video: New York State Senate Census Meeting

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

Notes on a Scandal Part 1: The Curious Case of Antonio Sanchez…

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Earlier this week, we received a tip from an anonymous Census Bureau employee in Westchester, New York. The employee informed us that on May 1 at 8:59am, he/she and dozens of his/her fellow field workers received a text message sent to their HHCs (handheld computers) that started with the line, “Please remember to drive safely…” and ended on “with great sadness we regret to inform you that two enumerators have been killed in fatal car accidents.”

Now, this text message is problematic on many levels. First, after searching through thousands of news articles, we have been unable to uncover any information about Census Bureau employees perishing in recent accidents. When we inquired with the Census Bureau, they also said that they were unaware of any accidents. If there were accidents, why haven’t they been reported? And if there have not been accidents, why are Census Bureau employees using scare tactics and lying to field workers?

MyTwoCensus successfully contacted the person who sent out the text message in question,  Antonio Sanchez, who serves as an Assistant Manager of Technology in the Westchester County  office of the Census Bureau.  However, since Census Bureau employees are not permitted to speak to the media (can you say “violation of the first amendment?”) Sanchez told us that he couldn’t discuss anything and that we should call Washington if we had any questions…

So that’s just what we did, and we’re waiting to hear back from Census Bureau HQ Washington on this issue…

Presumably, as a technology expert, Sanchez was directed by a superior to send out this message, so we don’t blame him for disseminating the information. However, until we get to the bottom of this most peculiar and disturbing incident, our investigation is still wide open.

Confidential Memo Leaked To Us: Beware of the Inspector General

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

The following memo was leaked to us by a Census Bureau employee who has requested anonymity, so we crossed out all identifying information. We particularly love the line “Don’t be a chatterbox.” We haven’t witnessed a pep talk written with as much vigor as this one since last season’s finale of Friday Night Lights…

We’re waiting for an update to see if anyone got canned as a result of the Inspector General’s visit to this office, but for now, here’s the dirt:

From: XXXXXXXXXXX@census.gov
Sent: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
To: XXXXXXXXX@census.gov
Subject: RE: The Inspector General – - Some Things to Inspect

Hello team,

As you all know by now, the Inspector General will be visiting your office Monday morning for an entire week. They are to observe the office and may ask to receive general reports to review. Please be courteous to them. They are in no way to obstruct Address Canvassing activities for any reason. If you are not sure how to handle a particular situation in dealing with the IG, please talk to XXXXXXXX or myself before committing yourself to an action or verbal statement. The IG comes off as very nice people and they are but there job is too find out what is WE’RE NOT doing correctly. It has come down that they have actually baited listers and office staff into doing wrong procedures. They will say things like” I just don’t add that entry it’s no big deal” or say “Oh just skip that house and go to the next”. This is how people in other offices and regions got dinged.

Trust me when I say the XXXXXXXX region is counting on XXXXX to come through for us. Your report from the IG will go straight to Washington, DC, Suitland, and all the other 12 regions. Here’s what you should do:

1. make sure you and your staff know all the procedures for their area and have the manuals handy.
2. Certain basic questions staff should be able to answer and be able to reference the manual(s) on what they are saying.
3. If you don’t know something, say I will get back to you on that and do it quickly.
4. Only tell them what they are asking for., Don’t get wordy with them be courteous and respectful but don’t be a chatter box.
5. Field staff have got to make sure they are following all procedures and not taking short cuts even when baited.

XXXXXXXX, they are going to come directly to the QC area because this is where all the crazy things have been happening with people in the field. make sure your well versed in your manual and that listers know to knock on every door and not skip houses.

I know you all will do fine and make the rest of the region proud.

Good luck to you all !!

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Area Manager
XXXXXXX, Regional Census Center

Breaking News from South Carolina: GOP uses “fake” census for fundraising scheme

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

We hoped that the GOP learned a thing or two after their robocalls backfired prior to the 2008 presidential election, but apparently no such lesson has been learned as they’re up to such shenanigans again in Pennsylvania. Taking the deception one step further, the GOP recently started mailing “fake” census forms to people in South Carolina to raise money for the party. Our calls to national GOP leaders and South Carolina GOP officials have not yet been returned since it is after business hours. We hope to quickly determine how widespread these mailings are and to whom they have been sent (only  to registered party members or to the general public). The Anderson, South Carolina Independent Mail broke this most shocking story:

3rd District ‘Census’ form is actually GOP fundraiser

A fundraising letter sent by the Republic Party National Committee that appears to be an official U.S. Census form for the state’s 3rd Congressional District is not endorsed by U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, a spokesman said.

The letter, and accompanying “census” form, also seeks donations for “strengthening our Party for the 2009-2010 elections.”

Emily Tyne, a spokesman for the congressman in Washington, D.C., referred questions to Barrett’s gubernatorial campaign spokesman.

“He wouldn’t have anything to do with that,” said Jim Dyke, a spokesman for the Barrett campaign.

“He would hope there wouldn’t be any confusion about this Republican Party fundraiser and the actual census,” Dyke said. “The census obviously is of great importance.”

The GOP “census” includes questions on a range of issues and appears to be an official document. On the envelope is the wording “Do Not Destroy Official Document.”

The form inside includes the words “2009 Congressional District Census,” “Census Tracking Code,” and “Census Document Registered To:” and is similar to an official census questionnaire.

Each section contains questions, and Section V, under “Census Certification and Reply,” asks for donations from $25 to $500 or “other.”

At the end of the document are the words “Paid for by the Republican National Committee.”

Dyke said Barrett “didn’t have any control over it.”

B.J. Welborn, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Census Bureau, said official census documents have a phone number for recipients to call to verify the mailing or ask questions. Census workers usually go door to door and have a badge and a hand-held computer, she said, but the agency does mail some questionnaires.

“What we send out is very clearly identifiable,” Welborn said.

“I couldn’t really comment on the GOP (letter),” she said. “We just want to make sure what is from us. If it is a mail survey, it is pretty easy to identify that it is from the U.S. government.”

People with questions can go to www.census.gov, she said. Two census offices opened in South Carolina in 2008 to supervise the current address canvassing operation, according to a statement. The phone numbers are (843) 323-4000 in Charleston and (803) 239-5012 in Columbia. Six more local census offices will open in the state to support 2010 census operations.

A U.S. Postal Service inspector did not respond by press time. An Anderson County Republican Party official did not return a phone message.


Note: MyTwoCensus is hoping to obtain an original copy/scan of the documents and envelopes discussed above. Please send any information/tips to MyTwoCensus @ MyTwoCensus.com.

Call to Action: Bring out your multimedia tools and get ready, aim, fire!

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

During our nightly search roundup, we came across the most poorly shot census-related video of all time. This clip basically consists of an average Joe (or Joe six pack or Joe the Plumber or whatever) and his wife (or lover) video taping a Census lister in action. This ultimately causes a minor verbal altercation between Joe and the lister who says (while off camera) that he’s “just doing my job.”

We are amazed that in the past 5 days, 20,000 individuals have wasted time viewing this video, and we feel all the more stupid for being a part of that group of people. But, this made a light bulb go off inside our collective heads.

The fact that this poorly shot/do-nothing video has attracted so many hits makes us think that pretty much anyone out there can have more brains, less of a confrontational nature, and infinitely better videography skills than the fools (dare we editorialize!) who shot this clip.

So, citizen journalists from sea to shining sea, this is our call to action. Pick up your cameras, i-Phones, camcorders, and any other multimedia tools you have access to and submit your best 2010 Census-related work to us so we can publish it right here on MyTwoCensus.

Oh yeah, here’s the video…don’t say we didn’t warn you about how boring/bad/annoying/stupid it is:

Who Let The Dogs Out (in Sarasota)?

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

If you think that working for the U.S. Census Bureau is safe, think again. As we have previously reported, man’s best friend is census listers’ worst enemy. When we previously pressed the folks at the Census Bureau’s Washington HQ for worker safety data, they referred us to look at OSHA’s stats page. However, it is unlikely that this data is accurate because of the sheer number of Census Bureau employees scattered throughout America and the fact that the data for the recent operations will not be tabulated for some time.

Here’s an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Sarasota Herald Tribune detailing a recent vicious attack on census worker:

The most recent attack occurred April 15, as David Fraser, 52, approached the front of the home while gathering data for the U.S. Census.

Fraser’s job for the Census Bureau involves a computer and GPS system, and requires him to go to homes, line up a GPS and push a button that registers that house.

Fraser said he was about 5 feet from the door of the house’s lanai when he heard a “low growling.” Then, he says, in a flash the dog “lurches and succeeded to open the front door” and grab and bit his wrist.

The dog took off and Fraser saw he was bleeding; he ended up at Sarasota Memorial Hospital for a tetanus shot and antibiotics.

Fraser said that under normal circumstances, in light of the dog-warning signs, he might have stayed farther back from the lanai door. But that day, his supervisors had given Census workers “a quality control talk.” Workers were “failing quality controls” and were told they needed to get to within 5 feet of structures before registering them.

Officials with the U.S. Census Bureau have declined to comment on the episode.

If you think this is a first time occurrence, think again. During the 2000 headcount, 71-year old Census Bureau employee Dorothy Stewart was killed by a pack of 18 dogs in Indiana. Here’s an excerpt from an article about Stewart’s tragic death from dogbitelaw.com:

June 10, 2000, Brown County, Indiana. Dorothy Stewart, a worker for the US Census, was attacked and killed by a pack of (more than 18) dogs while collecting census data in Indiana.  Her family filed a wrongful death suit and eventually settled with the defendants’ insurance company for the limit of the policy.

Charges of criminal recklessness were filed against the dog owners, because as they had maintained the pack for over 10 years, and numerous other people had run-ins, albeit not fatal, with the dogs.  This was the only charge apparently available to the prosecutor due to a loophole in Indiana law. In that state, it is a felony if your dog leaves your property and attacks someone, but not a crime at all if the attack happens on your property.  An attempt to change the law last year failed; the bill was watered down — first it would only protect government employees, then only between the hours of 8 and 5, and finally the house and senate couldn’t reconcile their bills and the entire effort to change the law sputtered to a halt.

The prosecutor entered into a plea agreement (dropping drug charges) and the defendants pled guilty.  On July 6, 2001, they received the maximum sentence available under the agreement, which was 1.5 years in jail for the wife, and 3 years in jail for the husband.

ACORN’s back (in the spotlight) and its better than ever…

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

We knew that it was too good to be true that we’ve gone through a few ACORN-less weeks. We didn’t hold our breath. Ostensibly, within the next 24 hours, the GOP will be back on the hunt for ACORN’s blood and the left will be dismissive of this “community group’s” abilities to harm the 2010 Census. Nowadays, simply uttering the word ACORN creates the extreme partisanship that is detrimental to obtaining the main goal of the 2010 Census: Obtaining an accurate count.

ACORN has been indicted in Nevada, so here we go again…Here’s the scoop from the Associated Press:

Nevada charges ACORN illegally paid to sign voters

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada authorities filed criminal charges Monday against the political advocacy group ACORN and two former employees, alleging they illegally paid canvassers to sign up new voters during last year’s presidential campaign.

ACORN denied the charges and said it would defend itself in court.

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now had a handbook and policies requiring employees in Las Vegas to sign up 20 new voters per day to keep their $8- to $9-per-hour jobs.

Canvassers who turned in 21 new voter registrations earned a “blackjack” bonus of $5 per shift, Masto added. Those who didn’t meet the minimum were fired.

“By structuring employment and compensation around a quota system, ACORN facilitated voter registration fraud,” Masto said. She accused ACORN executives of hiding behind and blaming employees, and vowed to hold the national nonprofit corporation accountable for training manuals that she said “clearly detail, condone and … require illegal acts.”

Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller emphasized the case involved “registration fraud, not voter fraud,” and insisted that no voters in Nevada were paid for votes and no unqualified voters were allowed to cast ballots.

Law enforcement agencies in about a dozen states investigated fake voter registration cards submitted by ACORN during the 2008 presidential election campaign, but Nevada is the first to bring charges against the organization, ACORN officials said.

ACORN has said the bogus cards listing such names as “Mickey Mouse” and “Donald Duck” represented less than 1 percent of the 1.3 million collected nationally and were completed by lazy workers trying to get out of canvassing neighborhoods. The organization has said it notified election officials whenever such bogus registrations were suspected.

ACORN spokesman Scott Levenson denied the Nevada allegations on behalf of ACORN, which works to get low-income people to vote and lists offices in 41 states and the District of Columbia. He blamed former rogue employees for the alleged wrongdoing.

“Our policy all along has been to pay workers at an hourly rate and to not pay employees based on any bonus or incentive program,” he said. “When it was discovered that an employee was offering bonuses linked to superior performance, that employee was ordered to stop immediately.”

Levenson said the two former ACORN organizers named in Monday’s criminal complaint — Christopher Howell Edwards and Amy Adele Busefink — no longer work for ACORN and would not be represented by the organization.

Edwards, 33, of Gilroy, Calif., and Busefink, 26, of Seminole, Fla., could not immediately be reached for comment.

Masto identified Edwards as the ACORN Las Vegas office field director in 2008, and said timesheets indicate that ACORN corporate officers were aware of the “blackjack” bonus program and failed to stop it. The attorney general said Busefink was ACORN’s deputy regional director.

The complaint filed in Las Vegas Justice Court accuses ACORN and Edwards each of 13 counts of compensation for registration of voters, and Busefink of 13 counts of principle to the crime of compensation for registration of voters. Each charge carries the possibility of probation or less than 1 year in jail, Masto said.

A court hearing was scheduled June 3 in Las Vegas, prosecutor Conrad Hafen said.

The First Sex Scandal of the 2010 Census!!!

Monday, May 4th, 2009

A reader tipped us off on this one…Sometimes, as is the case in this instance, it’s better to keep the commentary to a minimum and let the story write itself. Thanks to KCTV5.com for reporting on this:

A Johnson County woman said a man who said he was a census worker asked her some questionable questions.

Overland Park resident Kim Mertin said that when she opened her front door on Monday to find a man claiming to be a U.S. Census worker, she answered his questions. She said he started with the expected questions — “How many people live here?” — but it didn’t take long before the talk took a surprising turn. Mertin said the man commented about her clothing, asked if she’d like a back rub. She said he even asked if she “was wearing pink undies.”

Mertin said she felt immediately uncomfortable and started to back away, but it wasn’t just the conversation that bothered her.

“On several occasions, he touched himself,” she said. Mertin went inside, locked the door and called police. She also sent the Census Bureau an e-mail, assuming the man must be an impersonator. But, it turned out the man was really employed as a Census worker.

“It was shocking,” said Sydnee Chattin-Reynolds of the Census Bureau.Chattin-Reynolds said that in her 26 years with the Census, she has never dealt with a situation like this. All employees go through vigorous background checks, and additional screenings once hired, she said. For privacy reasons, Chattin-Reynolds said that she could only say that the situation was handled.

Mertin said she felt that wasn’t enough. “I felt I should have been told right then and there that this gentlemen would no longer be out doing what he was doing,” said Mertin. Reynolds said this part of the Census sets them up for the mailings that will go out in 2010. She said this is a rare and unfortunate incident during this important process.

For the 385th time, Gary Locke says no to “sampling” during the 2010 Census

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Lois Romano of The Washington Post recently interviewed Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. One topic of discussion was the 2010 Census. Here’s the relevant info from the interview:

Romano: Tell us what models you’re developing to ensure that all ethnic groups and minorities are accurately counted in next year’s census.

Locke: Well, for the first time, we will be sending our forms in different languages and specifically in Spanish. So populations, communities with a large Hispanic population, will actually receive a census questionnaire.

We’re going to be very specific. From past information, we know, for instance, in which parts of Houston there’s a large Vietnamese population. We know where in Los Angeles . . . in the Southwest, we have large populations, blocks of Hispanic families, and so we’re going to be very strategic and very targeted.

Romano: Will you, in part, rely on [population] sampling, even though the Republicans are dead set against it?

Locke: The United States Supreme Court has actually ruled that we are not allowed to use sampling apportionment. Nor do we have any plans to use sampling for any other purpose connected with the 2010 census.

Romano: Every White House has tried to play a role in the census. What will be this White House’s role in the census?

Locke: The census director reports to me, and, of course, I serve at the pleasure of the president. . . . It will not be politicized, and the White House assured me that it has no interest in politicizing it.

Give a warm welcome to Google’s new tool…Google Public Data

Monday, May 4th, 2009

For all of our readers who seek easy-to-obtain and accurate statistical information from the Census Bureau, Google’s new tool called Google Public Data will hopefully come in handy. Here’s an excerpt from The Washington Post’s article about the launch of this new product:

Google launched a new search tool yesterday designed to help Web users find public data that is often buried in hard-to-navigate government Web sites.

The tool, called Google Public Data, is the latest in the company’s efforts to make information from federal, state and local governments accessible to citizens. It’s a goal that many Washington public interest groups and government watchdogs share with President Obama, whose technology advisers are pushing to open up federal data to the public.

The company plans to initially make available U.S. population and unemployment data from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, respectively. Other data sets, such as emissions statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency, will roll out in the coming months.

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Census Bureau vexes ex-newswoman, others who counted on a job

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

Today, Daniel Rubin’s column in The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s discussed Laura Mansnerus’ MyTwoCensus opinion piece that detailed her experiences working for the U.S. Census Bureau:

Census Bureau vexes ex-newswoman, others who counted on a job

One of the underreported consequences of the newspaper industry’s collapse is what happens when grumpy truth seekers have to find work in the Real World.

Exhibit A: What occurred when former New York Timeswoman Laura Mansnerus took a seasonal job in Philadelphia as a supervisor for the U.S. Census Bureau.

She blogged about her experience last week on MyTwoCensus.com. It’s a cautionary tale of bad math, black ice, and moose warnings.

We talked about her great misadventure over coffee at Cafe Lutecia by her home near Fitler Square. She began by referring me to a 1971 study of Parisian office workers that found the biggest complainers were those who were most engaged in their work.

This tends to be true in newspapering as well, noted Mansnerus, who worked for the Times for 22 years, most recently as a reporter in Trenton. “People are constantly saying to superiors, ‘That’s a stupid idea.’ You don’t get punished for that. People might think you’re a jerk, but people understand that the reason we’re there is because we are crabby people.” Crabby but effective, in theory.

This, she said, is not the culture of the Census Bureau.

Back in January, she answered an ad on Craigslist Philadelphia for census takers. She had just finished a fellowship with the Open Society Institute, and was writing a book proposal to expand her research into the way New Jersey law treats sexually violent predators.

She welcomed the idea of walking around Philadelphia all spring, counting things. “How beautiful!” she thought.

A few weeks after she took a test at a South Philly rec center, she was hired as a supervisor for $19.25 an hour. The person on the phone told her she’d work between 10 and 12 weeks, Mansnerus said. She figured on pocketing as much as $10,000 before taxes. Her goverment career was over before she knew it.

It wasn’t just that she and her boss got along like cats and dogs, as she put it. (She was the cat.) And it wasn’t that she told her boss once to shut up, though she did.

Her problem was the numbers.

The assignment was address canvassing, which is necessary before 2010 census forms are mailed out next March.

Crew leaders were assigned assistants – called listers. Mansnerus had 17 people working under her initially. Their job was to walk around and figure out where people were living.

She was startled to look at the number of addresses she had been given to verify. The whole job looked as if it could be knocked off in a week or two. When she questioned her supervisor – divide the number of workers by the number of addresses, she suggested – he didn’t see her point.

“I think your math is a little off there,” he told her.

Her people were finishing their second week of canvassing when the worked dried up. A couple of hundred temps across the city met similar fates. “People had put their kids in day care,” she said. “People really thought they could pay some bills for a few months.”

At a meeting where crew leaders were hoping to hear that the bureau would find more work, they received a memo from regional director Fernando Armstrong stressing the importance of deadlines.

They were also given information sheets to hand out that she suspected were boilerplate, since they warned of the dangers of black ice and moose. No more work materialized. Neither did black ice or moose. Listers who needed to reopen their unemployment claims asked if the bureau would write letters to certify they were out of work. No.

I asked Armstrong if it was true the bureau had hired too many people for too little work, as Mansnerus contends. He said he didn’t know.

“Assuming what she describes is accurate, it is not unique,” he said. “We have other areas that have a similar situation.”

As for Mansnerus, she figures this might be her last hurrah with Uncle Sam. “We were just cells,” she said, “that showed up on someone’s performance sheet.”

She took leave of her newspaper job once before to go to law school, clerk for a judge, then prosecute environmental polluters for the Environmental Protection Agency.

But newspapers drew her back in. When her fellowship ended last summer, she looked at what was happening in the industry and called it a career.

The loss of people like her in newsrooms is a tragedy whose magnitude we have yet to fully appreciate – all that talent sitting idle. It’s not easy to change a bureaucracy like the Census Bureau when you’re just another of its numbers.

Note: This article does not represent the opinions of MyTwoCensus.com, Stephen Robert Morse or Evan Goldin. The views expressed are those of the author. That said, MyTwoCensus welcomes written, video, photographic, and multimedia contributions from any individual with a 2010 Census-related story to tell.

New Census policy may encourage the spread of Swine Flu

Friday, May 1st, 2009

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Immediately after MyTwoCensus broke the story that Census Bureau “listers” have finished their jobs way ahead of schedule (and were then released from their temporary duties, making them ineligible for unemployment), a tip from a mid-Atlantic state came into our inbox…

It appears that there has been a sudden change of policy within the Bureau: Whereas two days ago, the Census Bureau was proud that it had completed so many tasks early (and lied to its employees about how long they would be working), it seems that now the Census Bureau has gone to the other extreme, by adding tons of unecessary work for its low-level employees, work that could enable the spread of Swine Flu.

We assure you that the credibility of our source has been established. As we hope to protect that person’s identity, we will not reveal anymore information. Here’s the scoop:

“So the only people on the streets now are listers and Quality Control listers, people making the list of addresses and double-checking parts of the list of addresses.

It is exceedingly simple work, making sure “100 Main St.” in the computer matches up with “100 Main St.” on the ground. Ninety-nine percent of homes have their numbers posted, so there is no need to actually interact with anyone. The work moves pretty fast.

Until yesterday.

That’s when the regional census office decreed that we need to knock on every door and make a “courtesy contact.”

Here is the e-mail from the regional office:

“The purpose of this message is to ensure all Listers clearly and fully understand that they are “required” to knock on “every” door to verify addresses during the address canvassing operation.”

Again, almost none of this work actually requires talking with residents. (This is unlike the phase of the operation in 2010, when we’ll be knocking on the doors of people who don’t turn in their forms.) Making us knock on every door is going to slow our work to a crawl. And it will be completely pointless. During a “courtesy contact,” we don’t ask any questions, and merely say hi.

But in this time of swine flu anxiety it seems strange to require government employees to be making all kinds of unnecessary contact with dozens of strangers a day in their homes”

When a pandemic could be upon us, why has the Census Bureau decided to start making unnecessary “courtesy contacts” with citizens? Why is meaningless work being created for Census Bureau employees? Is it to prevent what happened in Philly from happening elsewhere by going to the opposite extreme and adding non-essential work to the mix?

The Census Bureau uses the following statistic as a talking point: For each additional 1% of Americans who turn in their Census questionnaire on time, the Bureau saves $80-90 million. However, knocking on doors to say “hi” has little to no correlation with ensuring that people fill out their questionnaires in the fall. And these “courtesy” visits could very well be facilitating the inadvertent spread of Swine Flu germs, endangering both Census Bureau listers and the unsuspecting citizens they visit.

$600 million down the drain…

Friday, May 1st, 2009

A reader tipped us off to the following blog post about the design of the handheld computers that are used by Census Bureau employees who go door-to-door and the expenditures needed to create this device:

By Ethan Zuckerman

If US government contractors had designed the iPhone

Filed under: Geekery — Ethan @ 3:22 pm

It’s an unseasonably beautiful day here in Western Massachusetts, roughly 30 degrees farenheight higher than it has any right to be, and I was sitting on my front stoop reading when my local census enumerator showed up. We made pleasant small talk about the weather, the remoteness of my house, the challenges of locating houses in our rural area, and then got down to the good stuff – attempting to find my neighbors on her handheld device, so she could ask them their correct mailing addresses.

The device she had strapped to her hand was a Harris HTC, which looks either like the ugliest cellphone you’ve ever seen, or a Palm Pilot designed by the US government. We scrolled through bad, inaccurate maps of the area, which looked like they’d been dumped from an early version of MapQuest, wondering how the ridgeline behind my house had magically been transformed into a navigable road, and talked about the device.

My enumerator was reasonably fond of her HTC – there were serious ergonomic problems, like a power button that tended to get inadvertently pressed when gripping the device, powering it off. And powering on isn’t exactly easy, given a multi-stage security process which requires a fingertip swipe, then a series of three security questions, answered by typing an on-screen keyboard with a stylus. But, all things considered, she was happy for a full-time job, and enjoying the chance to drive around our county on a gorgeous day, attempting to correct government maps and to ensure we all get sent our paper censuses.

I had to find out more about the device in question – how does a company get the contract to build 525,000 handheld computers? And why not just give everyone iPhones or Blackberries instead?

Well, Harris is a huge government and military contractor, which recently announced its intention to swallow Tyco Wireless, another huge government electronics contractor. Given that all their customer testemonials come from military personnel, my guess is that they don’t have much of a consumer products division. Neither do the folks who lost out on the bids, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman.

They’re not making a whole lot of friends with this new device. Last year, the Government Accountability Office added the 2010 Census to a list of high-risk programs. Basically, it sounds like requirements changed several times, and Harris ended up very late to market, with a somewhat buggy device. This freaked people out, and the Census quickly announced that they wouldn’t actually be using the devices – they’d use them just to conduct the first stage of the census, checking addresses, while the actual census (conducted door to door, of people who hadn’t sent in the forms themselves) would take place using clipboards and paper.

In other words, the relatively lame device my friendly enumerator was carrying, which cost $600 million, doesn’t actually work well enough to use for its intended purpose, is still being used in the field, perhaps so that it can be readied for 2020? Anyone believe that we’ll be able to do better than a half-pound, paperback-book sized plastic brick within ten years?

I haven’t traced the story back thoroughly enough to understand why the US government didn’t use an off the shelf device. My guess is that the requirements (encrypted data streams between device and server, biometric security, a variety of paths towards data networks, mostly via cell networks) were tough for commercial handhelds to meet. But it seems like one pathway might have been to remove the most arduous of those requirements – the biometric sensor – and use a platform whose hardware had been extensively field-tested as a mobile phone, and simply debug a secure communications layer and a data collection application.

Then again, that’s probably why I don’t work on government IT projects anymore.

Note: This article does not represent the opinions of MyTwoCensus.com, Stephen Robert Morse or Evan Goldin. The views expressed are those of the author. That said, MyTwoCensus welcomes written, video, photographic, and multimedia contributions from any individual with a 2010 Census-related story to tell.

San Jose’s Population Milestone

Friday, May 1st, 2009

We at MyTwoCensus wish a hearty Mazel Tov to the residents of San Jose, California, now a city of 1 million people. Unfortunately, this highly subjective number has already been overshadowed by another Bay Area institution, Apple, which just sold its 1 billionth I-Phone app. Oh well San Jose, you had your 15 seconds of fame. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

San Jose has hit another major population milestone — becoming the first West Coast city north of Los Angeles to notch its one millionth resident.

Actually, it’s 1,006,892 residents, according to figures released Thursday by the California Department of Finance that had city leaders pleased.

“Size does matter,” said a proud Mayor Chuck Reed. While not the only important thing, the mayor explained, “it does matter when I’m in Washington or Sacramento trying to get state or national policy changed on a Silicon Valley issue. I don’t know if the absolute number counts, but being the 10th largest city in the country and over a million puts us in a category that people will pay attention to, even though they’ve never been to San Jose.”

San Jose has hit another major population milestone — becoming the first West Coast city north of Los Angeles to notch its one millionth resident.

Actually, it’s 1,006,892 residents, according to figures released Thursday by the California Department of Finance that had city leaders pleased.

“Size does matter,” said a proud Mayor Chuck Reed. While not the only important thing, the mayor explained, “it does matter when I’m in Washington or Sacramento trying to get state or national policy changed on a Silicon Valley issue. I don’t know if the absolute number counts, but being the 10th largest city in the country and over a million puts us in a category that people will pay attention to, even though they’ve never been to San Jose.”