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 October, 2009

Feature: Real Stories From The Field…Yet Another Worker Sounds Off

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Here is yet another anonymous Census Bureau employee who wishes to tell his tale (the following does not reflect the opinions of MyTwoCensus or Stephen Robert Morse)…

I was a QC Enumerator for the address validation phase in San Marcos/Escondido CA area.  I used the HHC and was relatively pleased with the results.  One of the things that did trouble me was the absolute accuracy demanded when map-spotting.  For instance, we were practically forbidden to map-spot a mobile home at its mailbox or driveway, but had to go to the front door first, even though most of the front doors were under metal awnings which blocked the satellite. When the front door failed we had to back away until we were at the mailbox or driveway before you picked up the YAH (You-are-here) indicator.  This took about two minutes each time where it should have taken five seconds.  Even separate houses where we could walk down a sidewalk and mark a house in a second, we had to disturb the resident by going to the front door, knock or ring a doorbell, get the dogs barking and wake the child, give them a Confidentiality Notice just tell them to ignore us.  This usually occurred about a week after the original address canvasser had also done it.  This was supposed to instill confidence in Census?

After all that, the first thing they told us when we began the GQV training was that we weren’t going to use the HHC’s.  I immediately thought what a waste of time all that map-spotting was, but the second thing we were told is that we now had to do map-spotting manually! What the hell for?  It would seem to me that a map-spot coordinate is useful to follow a GPS device, but is of limited use to try and follow manually.  But, the government has made expensive computer generated maps that have thousands of map-spots on them.  I thought it would even be more foolish to spend hours trying to place by hand a guessed, at best, pencil map spot on an already crowded map.  I was right, but we spent four hours learning how to do it.  I can’t imagine the expense the Bureau spent on generating progressively detailed map-spotted maps and will now spend to update them with manually estimated map-spots.

I guess my biggest complaint is the seemingly “one size fits all” that creeps into and detracts from all government endeavors.  The training for both phases was excruciatingly boring and rote!  It could have been done in half the time if the trainees weren’t treated like fourth graders and the instructors weren’t forced to read every word from a book. We were told at the beginning of GQV that we would not be doing military or penal quarters, but spent over four hours on how to do it because it was in the “book” and the “book” couldn’t be deviated from. I live in and would canvas southern California yet was subject to long discussions on “black ice” safety and how to approach/avoid “moose” especially during their rutting season!

The questionnaire is a disaster!!  It is a 44 page, die-cut monstrosity that attempts to cover ever scenario that a lister would ever encounter.  The lister must start at its beginning and read it verbatim to whomever they are interviewing.  This requirement became an embarrassing block to a successful interview.  Before we could do solo interviews we had to be observed and “certified” by our crew leader.  For three days, I and my crew leader unsuccessfully tried to complete one interview and each time I was forced to read qualifying questions such as “Is this a drug abuse treatment center?” or “Is this a correctional facility?” I would be stopped by an angry owner and asked to leave.  It was so unbelievable that I finally resigned.  In a total of three days, I logged two hours of billable time, but was expected to standby the phone and wait for the crew leader to call to schedule another certification try.  The last I heard, three of the original class of fourteen were certified and everybody else has left.

The final direction that stuck with me was the homelessness directive. We were told to submit an info form every time we saw an apparent homeless person even if we saw the same person everyday.  When asked why, we were told that homeless people tend to stay in the same area and the census takers would know where to go during the actual Census 2010 (Six months later!).  With logic like that, I look forward to the results!

Gay Rights, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and the 2010 Census

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Check out a solid article from Eve Conant of Newsweek about gay marriage and the 2010 Census (full article HERE):

“Sarah,” an active-duty soldier in Iraq, can hardly be questioned for her patriotism or courage. But when it comes to filling out her 2010 census form, her primary emotion is fear. “I keep real quiet about my partner,” she tells NEWSWEEK. “Even this conversation is a violation of the law, but I’ve stepped away from the other soldiers so I’m not ‘a threat to morale.’ ” Sarah is tired of the subterfuge and wishes she could use her real name for this article without getting fired under “don’t ask, don’t tell” legislation. She’s anxious because she knows this census is a watershed moment for the entire lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community, as it is for gay soldiers. “A lot of people don’t want to believe there are 60,000 of us in the military. I don’t believe it either. I think that number is bigger.”

or the first time in the centuries-long history of the census, the number of same-sex couples who self-identify as married—license or no license—will be tabulated and released to the public. The move is seen as both a friendly nod to the gay community—which had pinned its hopes on President Obama and has, at least in some quarters, been frustrated by a perceived slow response to gay-rights issues—and a boost to policy fights, from challenging laws that limit gay adoptions to the nationwide legalization of gay marriage.The release of the data also marks a major shift in the evolution of the Census Bureau. In 1990 it edited the answers of self-identified gay husbands and wives to make them appear as opposite-sex partners; in 2000, instead of editing the sex of a gay spouse it edited the data to describe the same-sex couples as “unmarried partners.” While the Census Bureau doesn’t make policy, its data will be instrumental to inform it. “This will not be a count of the gay population of the U.S., but it will be the biggest, most profound data set that anyone has ever had,” says Timothy Olson, assistant division chief in the U.S. Census Field Division. “There will finally be good data for policymakers to engage in the issues with facts, not speculations.”

“Sarah,” an active-duty soldier in Iraq, can hardly be questioned for her patriotism or courage. But when it comes to filling out her 2010 census form, her primary emotion is fear. “I keep real quiet about my partner,” she tells NEWSWEEK. “Even this conversation is a violation of the law, but I’ve stepped away from the other soldiers so I’m not ‘a threat to morale.’ ” Sarah is tired of the subterfuge and wishes she could use her real name for this article without getting fired under “don’t ask, don’t tell” legislation. She’s anxious because she knows this census is a watershed moment for the entire lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community, as it is for gay soldiers. “A lot of people don’t want to believe there are 60,000 of us in the military. I don’t believe it either. I think that number is bigger.”

For the first time in the centuries-long history of the census, the number of same-sex couples who self-identify as married—license or no license—will be tabulated and released to the public. The move is seen as both a friendly nod to the gay community—which had pinned its hopes on President Obama and has, at least in some quarters, been frustrated by a perceived slow response to gay-rights issues—and a boost to policy fights, from challenging laws that limit gay adoptions to the nationwide legalization of gay marriage.

The release of the data also marks a major shift in the evolution of the Census Bureau. In 1990 it edited the answers of self-identified gay husbands and wives to make them appear as opposite-sex partners; in 2000, instead of editing the sex of a gay spouse it edited the data to describe the same-sex couples as “unmarried partners.” While the Census Bureau doesn’t make policy, its data will be instrumental to inform it. “This will not be a count of the gay population of the U.S., but it will be the biggest, most profound data set that anyone has ever had,” says Timothy Olson, assistant division chief in the U.S. Census Field Division. “There will finally be good data for policymakers to engage in the issues with facts, not speculations.”

That upsets some conservatives, who argue that by releasing the data, the bureau is violating the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). “Federal law states that marriage is between a man and woman,” says Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women of America. “This is a denial of federal law.” But she and other family-values leaders lost that argument this summer when Obama reversed the Bush’s administration’s refusal to release the figures. Since DOMA applied only to policymaking agencies, and since the census asks only if a person is a husband or a wife, not if they are “married,” the census, the Obama administration argued, does not violate DOMA.

Nonetheless, some conservatives predict the census will do more harm than good for the gay-rights movement. “There are early indications from states that have allowed such unions that their numbers are not growing,” says Wright. “The census count may end up being a bit of an embarrassment for gay activists.” A 2008 census poll of 3 million households showed that 150,000 same-sex couples used the terms “husband” or “wife” to describe their partner (about 27 percent of the estimated 564,743 same-sex couples living in the U.S.). Yet only 35,000 marriage licenses had been issued by the end of 2008 in Massachusetts, California, and Connecticut, according to the Williams Institute, a UCLA law-school think tank dedicated to sexual-orientation law and public policy. So even without a license, many couples count themselves as married.

This has angered gay-marriage opponents, who say gay couples are falsely boosting their numbers. But gay advocates are not swayed. “You can decide what lying is,” says the Williams Institute’s Gary Gates. “The census questionnaire doesn’t ask if you are legally married; it asks [about] relationships, such as husband or wife. So you could have been married in a church or in a commitment ceremony but have no license.” In part to resolve questions such as this, the census has asked specialists like Gates to advise a follow-up project to improve data collection, including ways to track legal relationships like civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Even if the data will not be a full count of all gays in America, the census is expected to shed light on underreported issues like gay poverty, especially given the common perception that gay couples are predominantly white and wealthy. According to recent research by the Williams Institute and the University of Massachusetts, some 20 percent of children belonging to gay couples live in poverty, compared with 10 percent of children of heterosexual couples. “The census,” predicts Gates, “will be a boon for challenging stereotypes.”

Census trash will benefit baby feds

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

H/t to Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post for the following:

What will the government do with the millions of 2010 Census questionnaires once it’s done counting them next year? Shred them, sell the recyclable scraps and then give the money to federal childcare facilities, according to Census Director Robert Groves.

Groves shared the details during an interview broadcast Monday on Federal News Radio.

The National Processing Center in Indiana shreds and bales the paper once Census Bureau computers have scanned the data on the paper questionnaires, according to the agency. The General Services Administration then sells the bales of paper to contractors. The proceeds go back to the Commerce Department, which by law must use the money for environmental or employee wellness programs, including its child care facilities.

Incidentally, the Government Printing Office prints the 600 million questionnaires on 30 percent recycled paper. The Census Bureau has already printed roughly 425 million questionnaires for mailing next Spring.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: New Web Site Is A Step Forward, But Analytics Data Must Be Provided

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

A government agency with a beautiful web site is rare, and only when the Obama Administration redesigned and modernized WhiteHouse.gov were the American people able to get access to the sort of web site that should be standard for online government publications. Building off the success of the Obama ‘08 campaign’s successful use of social media, we are glad to see that the Census Bureau has, as of yesterday, gone above and beyond 21st century governmental web site norms by redesigning 2010.Census.gov. The new site embraces the Obama rhetoric that advocates interactivity and transparency even further than WhiteHouse.gov. 

From a practical perspective, one of the best features of this new site will be the ability to track census questionnaire response rates of individual states and locales as the data results come in. (We hope that Steve Jost and the communications team at the Census Bureau will make it a priority to update this data on a daily basis.) If nothing else, this feature will motivate states, municipalities, and other regional districts to improve their participation numbers before the non-response follow up period ends. This part of the new site will also encourage friendly rivalries between politicians, states, and municipalities which will likely result in free and positive press for the Census Bureau. We also hope that Dr. Groves and other bloggers for the 2010 Census site continue to provide new information at frequent intervals. 

While the idea of a new and improved web site is wonderful, if few people are viewing it, then it won’t have the impact it needs. MyTwoCensus urges the Census Bureau to release the analytics data detailing the number of unique users per day on its new web site, particularly as it compares to the analytics data of the old web site. We hope to see the numbers of viewers for each individual page of the web site as well. This is the only way that MyTwoCensus and other watchdog/non-profit organizations will be able to accurately track the success of the redesign. Additionally, if the Census Bureau’s site redesign becomes a statistical success, then perhaps other government agencies will follow suit by improving their interactivity and transparency, which will be a great step forward for American society.

 

It should be noted that the redesign of 2010.Census.gov was a combined effort of the Census Bureau with private sector advertising firm Draftfcb.

Tales From The Field: Group Quarters Validation Enables Costs To Soar

Monday, October 26th, 2009
As the “Group Quarters Validation” phase of the 2010 Census is well underway, we bring you another detailed account from a Census Bureau employee in New York City (Those interested in writing for us should not hesitate to send contributions…details on our contact page) whose anonymity we are committed to protecting. If you are wondering why there have been so many cost overruns at the Census Bureau, check out the following:

Group Quarters Validation started across the country four weeks ago (September 21st) when the office telephoned about two hundred listers and told them it was going to five weeks of work. Several times I overheard the managers say that we had the largest workload in the nation. The Census headquarters originally estimated our workload to be approximately 37,000 OLQ cases in about 800 blocks. But the number of cases was misleading because sometimes entire multi unit buildings and their units were classified as OLQs. Headquarters later estimated the OLQ workload by counting unique basic street addresses (a house number and street name).  They estimated about 8,800 unique street addresses in about 800 blocks, implying each block averaged about ten unique OLQs. I’ve only been in New York a few years but in this city I know that there is not a single block with ten churches, homeless shelters, hostels or hotels.

During the week when we were preparing questionnaires and field staff were being trained it was becoming clearer that there were only about 1,500 unique OLQs. With over two hundred field employees if each lister conducted a couple of ten minute interviews they would be completed in a matter of days. By the time the office knew what hit them the field operation winded down. It was only the first week.

But for those in the office the nightmare was just beginning. In the first few days the twelve office clerks were so inundated with checking in work from the field that we could not keep up and were backlogged for days. Census headquarters overestimated the productivity of quality control clerks who had no field training and had to review every questionnaire using a four page checklist and write every corresponding non-survivor 14 digit bar code manually on a sheet of paper. The initial office review of each questionnaire, manual transcribing of non-survivor labels and final office review of the work was so slow that none of the work could be shipped to the National Processing Center (NPC) in Jeffersonville, Indiana fast enough.

When the field work dwindled we did bring in a few listers who were familar with the procedures and they simplified everything for us. But the office managers (LCOM, AMQA, AMFO and some guy with a German accent) who knew nothing about procedures, sat around, twiddled their thumbs, raised their voices and continuously talked down to us for not processing work fast enough. At first we began processing non survivor labels by placing them on a single non-survivor label page. However since headquarters overestimated the number of OLQs they produced too many 44 page questionnaires and not enough non-survivor label pages. Since each questionnaire and non survivor label page had a unique bar code used for scanning at the NPC we could not photocopy these pages. So when we ran out of single label pages to put labels on, the new nationwide procedure was to slap these labels on the full 44 page questionnaires. So we started mailing full 44 page questionnaires with only two pages filled out back to NPC.


The Bureau was not willing to be flexible with their deadline of four weeks. So, of course the New York Region panicked. They started sending people from the Rocky Hill and Hoboken New Jersey offices; even flew in managers from Greensboro, North Carolina to help us and authorized overtime for everyone: clerks, office supervisors and even managers. What didn’t make sense to me was why they sent New Jersey field employees who are paid for their travel time. They have to travel two hours to our office and two hours home so their time working in the office was only four hours, when they could of simply hired some of the hundreds of listers from our county that only received a week’s worth of work.

The Census Bureau managers seem to rely on panicking to make brash decisions that will skyrocket their costs. We are told that we are not to work overtime without supervisor approval but they’ll then offer everyone overtime, pay for New Jersey people to commute half a day and fly people from across the country to help us finish the operation. I’m disappointed that no one at the local office, regional or even at headquarters caught this error that could of possibly saved us thousands of dollars. We could of simply hired just fifty listers to work the full four weeks and saved at least $100,000. Instead we trained 228 listers for a week to work just a week.

Today was the first day of the fourth week of the operation and we finished the operation last night after two weeks of twelve hour days. While I’m glad to have gotten overtime pay I am a little saddened we are four days ahead of schedule and will all be let go for lack of work. I can’t imagine what the dent in the wallet of the federal government must of been not only in our office but across the country to print all those questionnaires and then have to ship them to NPC with only two pages filled out, not to mention the overtime.

During the operation, hearing listers speak about problems in the field were the best stories to pass the time doing repetitive work. We were getting hammered by mistakes made during address canvassing, including the entire high rise apartment building classified as OLQ and missed buildings in areas where they told listers to work quicker during address canvassing or risk losing their jobs. These missing buildings could only be missed if the lister didn’t go out into the field. Listers may have a problem with the outhouse or storage shed listed as an OLQ. But how do you deal with the high rise apartment building where the lister marked every unit an OLQ?  Then how do you slap thousands of labels on 44 page questionnaires, fill out the first and last page only and box them to ship to NPC?

At the very least Census didn’t train extra people during the operation and now they actually have a quality control system to prevent field employees from falsifying information. I suppose things are going better at this point but I am not even going to voice my concern to them because it will fall upon death ears. They are going to wipe their hands clean and say that we were told it would be about five weeks and we could be released earlier. Certainly the listers in the field didn’t expect to only be working just a few days in the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Scoop: Census.gov Is Redesigned

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

If you check out 2010.Census.gov between now and Monday,  you will find the Census Bureau’s new, more interactive web site that was designed as a collaborative effort between in-house creators and ad agency Draftfcb.  Please feel free to submit thoughts and comments about the differences between Census.gov and 2010.Census.gov.

Congress Not Pleased With Cost Overruns

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Check out the letter from Rep. Patrick McHenry, ranking member on the subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives that was sent to the Census Bureau on Monday: Cost Overrun Letter 10/19/09

Mr. Morse Goes To Washington

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Hi All,

Just wanted to let you know that I will be arriving in Washington within 20 minutes. Tomorrow afternoon, I will be meeting with Steve Jost, Stephen Buckner, and other Census Bureau officials. I’m not sure what we will discuss or if this meeting is on or off the record. But if you have any pressing questions that I should pass along, please submit them as comments to this post.

Best,
Stephen Robert Morse

Groves worried about cost overruns in 2010 census

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

H/t to Hope Yen of the AP:

WASHINGTON — The head of the Census Bureau on Wednesday expressed concern about cost overruns in preparations for next year’s high-stakes count, saying he was taking steps to help prevent the expenses from ballooning further.

Appearing before a House panel, Robert Groves said poor planning had resulted in added costs in the address canvassing operation that were $88 million higher than the original estimate of $356 million, an overrun of 25 percent.

Groves said the agency had made some faulty assumptions in how quickly it could get work done. The agency was now re-evaluating budget estimates for the entire census operation, which is projected to cost roughly $15 billion.

“Those budget overruns are intolerable,” he told a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee.

Census predicts fall in response rate

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

H/t to USA Today for the following:

Turbulent political and economic times roiling the nation are expected to diminish initial participation by households in next year’s Census despite a $326 million marketing blitz that far outspends previous Census campaigns.

Mounting mistrust of government, rising identity theft and record numbers of foreclosures could discourage people from mailing back Census forms next year, according to the Census Bureau.

A Census analysis shows that about 64% of households are likely to mail in their forms without additional prodding from Census workers — down from 67% in 2000. That could mean 4 million more doors to knock on.

CENSUS STRATEGY: Reaching hard-to-count residents

CENSUS NUMBERS: Interactive look at 2008 data

Avencia Launches Redistricting the Nation.com, a Ground-Breaking Public Engagement Web Application

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Philadelphia, PA – October 21, 2009 – Following the upcoming 2010 census reports, states and municipalities will engage in a nationwide legislative redistricting process.  But in some parts of the country, the redrawing of district boundaries for partisan advantage has been rampant, which ultimately reduces the impact of individual voters on the election, resulting in lower voter turnout, and less competitive races.  The expanded use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has created both new potential for sophisticated gerrymandering and a possible means of implementing unbiased redistricting. 
With Redistricting 2011 around the corner, Avencia Incorporated, a Philadelphia-based geographic analysis and software development firm, is releasing the “Redistricting The Nation” (www.redistrictingthenation.com) website to provide the public with better information about the legislative redistricting process and tools that support and encourage fair representation and competitive elections.  
The site allows citizens and advocacy groups to:Enter their address (nation-wide) and view the “shape” of their federal, state, and local election districts.Learn who is in charge of drawing the boundaries of their election districts (e.g., independent commissions or elected representatives). Compare the “compactness” scores of their election district to other, similar districts (less compact and unusually shaped districts are more likely to be gerrymandered).Draw new district boundaries on a map and generate compactness scores for the new district. Avencia is also concurrently releasing a revised version of its 2006 study of gerrymandering (“Redraw the Map on Redistricting 2010”).  The new study expands the scope and methodology of Avencia’s original “Gerrymandering Index” to include state-level districts, council districts, and political wards for several new cities, and introduces three additional techniques for measuring districts’ compactness.  While poor compactness scores do not prove gerrymandering, they are a measurable indication of the practice.
The whitepaper ranks the ten most gerrymandered local, state, and federal districts in the country based on four different measures of compactness.  The study reveals some interesting findings. For instance, at the Congressional level, both FL-22 and NC-12 rank high in the study’s Top Ten for all four measures of compactness, while some of the worst offenders at the local level are: Philadelphia, PA-District 7; Miami, FL-District 2; Jacksonville, FL-District 11; Houston, TX-District E; New York, NY-District 4; and Philadelphia, PA-District 5.
Avencia is no stranger to political and election-focused projects.  Earlier this month, Avencia and Committee of Seventy, the Philadelphia region’s premier non-partisan government watchdog group, launched a sister website to the “Redistricting The Nation” site, dedicated to raising public awareness in the Greater Philadelphia area about the potential impact of the 2010 census on federal, state, and local election districts, available at www.redistrictingthenation.com/philadelphia.  During the November 2008 presidential election, the firm built a Voting Incident Tracking and Mapping web-based application that tracked voting problems in real-time to enable Committee of Seventy’s record-setting 1,000 person volunteer force to respond faster and more efficiently.  Avencia also worked for multiple candidates in races to generate campaign walking and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) maps, and most recently generated over 400 campaign financing analysis maps for MapLight.org for their ‘Remote Control’ report.
“It is exciting to be able to leverage our global database of legislative districts and GIS analysis tools to promote good government and nonpartisan redistricting,” said Robert Cheetham, Avencia’s CEO. “It is a process that can be easily manipulated to protect incumbents and discourage competitive races. Our goal with this new site is to both educate the public early in the Census 2010 cycle, and to create software tools that will promote a more open, citizen-driven and transparent redistricting process in 2011.”
Political geography is at the center of several ongoing projects at Avencia.  The white paper analysis of compactness of election districts was made possible by Avencia’s Cicero product, a legislative district matching and elected official lookup web API, developed for local governments, unions, businesses, and non-profit political and advocacy organizations to match citizens with their local, state, and national elected officials.  Cicero taps a global database of legislative district maps and information about politicians, legislative bodies, and election events.  Initially beginning with only a few cities, Avencia has grown the database to include national, state and local legislatures for the United States and several other countries and made an interactive version available to the public.

 

About Avencia
Avencia is an award-winning, Philadelphia-based geographic analysis and software development firm specializing in the creation of innovative location-based software tools to enhance decision-making processes.  Avencia believes these location-based technologies can help promote the emergence of more dynamic, vibrant communities. For more information, visit www.avencia.com

A quick note from the editor…

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Personally, I believe that the debate in Congress about the 2010 Census being altered to require that only citizens are counted is nonsense. This movement only has traction from elected officials who feel their seats are threatened by immigrants. It will not go far. I am surprised that the media is giving it so much hype. There must not be anything else to discuss. Good job as usual mainstream media by blowing things out of proportion!

NYT Editorial: How to Waste Money and Ruin the Census

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

The following comes from the venerable New York Times:

Published: October 19, 2009

With the start of the 2010 census just a few months away, Senator David Vitter, a Republican of Louisiana, wants to cut off financing for the count unless the survey includes a question asking if the respondent is a United States citizen. Aides say he plans to submit an amendment to the census appropriation bill soon.

As required by law, the Census Bureau gave Congress the exact wording of the survey’s 10 questions in early April 2008 — more than 18 months ago. Changing it now to meet Mr. Vitter’s demand would delay the count, could skew the results and would certainly make it even harder to persuade minorities to participate.

It would also be hugely expensive. The Commerce Department says that redoing the survey would cost hundreds of millions of dollars: to rewrite and reprint hundreds of millions of census forms, to revise instructional and promotional material and to reprogram software and scanners.

During debates in the Senate, Mr. Vitter said that his aim is to exclude noncitizens from population totals that are used to determine the number of Congressional representatives from each state. He is ignoring the fact that it is a settled matter of law that the Constitution requires the census to count everyone in the country, without regard to citizenship, and that those totals are used to determine the number of representatives.

(The Census Bureau already tracks the number of citizens and noncitizens through a separate survey.)

Adding a new question about citizenship would further ratchet up suspicions that the census is being used to target undocumented immigrants. That would discourage participation not only among people who are here illegally but also their families and friends who may be citizens and legal residents. That leads to an inaccurate count.

And since census numbers are also used to allocate federal aid, undercounting minorities shortchanges the cities and states where they live.

Advocates for the census say that Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican of Utah, has also raised the idea of another bad, last-minute change. Under current practice, the only people living abroad included in the census are military personnel and federal civilian employees, and the families of both, stationed overseas. Mr. Hatch, these officials say, wants to include certain other Americans living abroad temporarily, a definition that would be tailored to include — you guessed it — Mormon missionaries.

There seems little doubt that the goal would be to increase population numbers for Utah — to try to garner another Congressional seat. As of Monday, Senator Hatch’s office would not say whether he plans to pursue the idea. He shouldn’t.

Both of these changes would be discriminatory and ridiculously expensive. If Mr. Vitter and Mr. Hatch wanted to argue their cases, they should have done it 18 months ago — or wait until after this count.

Changing the survey now would be a disaster for the census and for American taxpayers. The Senate should defeat any and all attempts to alter or delay the 2010 count.

Cheap Advertising Available For Those Who Wish To Send Pro-2010 Census Message

Monday, October 19th, 2009
I received the following letter from Blulinemedia, a 2010 Census partner that plans to donate unsold advertising space on busses across the nation to organizations who want to spread pro-2010 Census messages (at significant discounts):

As a 2010 Census national partner, we have unsold advertising space to donate on municipal/city bus INTERIORS in various markets

for an advertising term of Feb. – Apr. 2010 for 2010 Census messages (i.e., encouraging citizens to participate and be counted).

DONATED AD TERM
Feb. – Apr. ’10 (3 months)

COSTS TO PRINT

The ad space is donated to each participating organization.

Each participating organization is responsible for design of the artwork and the cost to print the ads.

Below is the cost to print for each market:

Market with 200 buses: $4,872 (retail value: $14,950 to $19,950, depending on the market).

Market with 100 buses: $3,872 (retail value: $12,950 to $17,950, depending on the market).

Market with 50 buses: $2,872 (retail value: $10,950 to $14,950, depending on the market).

All printing has to come through Blu Line Media, pursuant to contracts with the bus companies.

ARTWORK

Artwork due date:

Dec. 21, 2009

Size: 27″ wide by 11″ high

Live area: 26″ wide by 10″ high

Format: High-res. PDF

DPI: 300

Delivery: email to dannyp@blulinemedia.net

AVAILABLE NATIONWIDE MARKETS

(Parentheticals indicate the number of minimum buses to use in a market)

Alabama
Birmingham (100)

Arizona
Phoenix (200)
Tempe (100)
Tucson (200)

Arkansas
Little Rock (100)

California
Davis (100)
Sacramento (200)
Stockton (100)
Modesto (50)
Marin (incl. San Rafael) (50)
San Francisco (200)
East Bay (Contra Costa County, incl. Concord & Walnut Creek) (200)
East Bay (Alameda County, incl. Oakland) (200)
San Mateo County (incl. Redwood City) (200)
Santa Clara Valley (incl. San Jose & Silicon Valley) (200)
Santa Cruz (100)
Monterey (incl. Salinas) (100)
Fresno (100)
Bakersfield (100)
Ventura & Santa Barbara Counties (200)
Los Angeles County, North (incl. San Gabriel Valley and Pasadena) (200)
Los Angeles County, West (incl. Santa Monica) (200)
Los Angeles County, South and East (incl. downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach) (200)
Los Angeles County, South Bay (incl. Torrance & the Beach Cities) (200)
Los Angeles County, Suburban (San Fernando Valley) (200)
Lancaster (100)
Coachella Valley (50)
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Washington D.C.
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West Virginia
Charleston (100)

Wisconsin
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Madison (200)
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Racine (50)
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Please call or write with questions. I’m happy to help.

Danny Pouladian
Blu Line Media
310-729-5190
www.blulinemedia.net
dannyp@blulinemedia.net

Letter To The Editor: Fingerprinting Issues Need To Be Addressed

Monday, October 19th, 2009

The following letter to the editor represents the opinion of John A. Niotti-Soltesz, CEO of Zerco Systems International Inc. and is in response to pieces that we have recently posted about fingerprinting and security issues that were brought to light before Congress by the Government Accountability Office:

To The Editor:

My name is John A. Niotti-Soltesz, CEO of Zerco Systems International Inc. Zerco is working in conjunction with the largest background check screening company in the world and had submitted a comprehensive and much need solution for fingerprinting that addressed many of the flawed issues and the direction the Census was undertaking in clearing the hundreds of thousands of temp workers for next years Census.  We were just notified that our unsolicited proposal, that was submitted to Census in July 27, 2009 was just rejected.  The reasons were absolutely unfounded and distorted.

I believe Dr. Groves and this administration are going down a path that is going to put the American people at tremendous risk and exposure.   We need your voice to expose a flawed process that violates our personal security and exposes tremendous cost overruns that our tax dollars will pay for.  I have worked with our partner for over 6 months on the comprehensive, cost effective and safe fingerprinting livescan solution. Their response basically said “the Census Bureau has already invested in the infrastructure and supplies to support the collection of fingerprints.”   This response is pure BS.  Their investment will put the American public at significant risk and this administration, eventually, in the hot seat.  My staff had meetings with Census at the end of last year (08) and was instructed to submit a proposal, based on the information and approach we recommended, only to have it shot down with today’s notification. Our proposal was mentioned during questioning of Dr. Groves by Congessman Clay less than two weeks ago in a Committee meeting on the Hill. Dr. Groves had no idea our proposal was with the Census or even under-review at that time. However, Congressman Clay did know that Census [Bureau] had the proposal and had done nothing with it.

For the purpose of time and typing so much more information I have,  I would kindly request that we take a few minutes and talk directly.  I am in the process of notifying my Congressman who wrote to the Director with his concerns we shared long before those concerns were made public recently, and others on the hill.  Again, we need your voice.

Finally, I am aware of the proposal David Allburn submitted to Census.  His proposal was denied at the end of 08.  I pursued, with our teaming partner, a unique and cost effective approach that would have delivered the solution to Census they requested in an RFI they put out approximately 21/2 years ago. That solution requested a Livescan fingerprinting process not ink and cards!   Vendors at the time responded to a ridiculous set of requirements that made it cost prohibitive.  Our approach mitigated this issue.   Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

John A. Niotti-Soltesz, CEO

Zerco Systems International Inc.

Feature: Real Stories From The Census Bureau (Group Quarters Validation)

Friday, October 16th, 2009

As the “Group Quarters Validation” phase of the 2010 Census is well underway, we bring you another detailed account from a Census Bureau employee in New York City (Those interested in writing for us should not hesitate to send contributions…details on our contact page) whose anonymity we are protecting:

Group Quarters Validation (GQV) is the next major field operation in the 2010 Census. In GQV field employees known as listers go out to places that were pre-identified as other living quarters (OLQs) during the first phase, address canvassing. They classify these (OLQs) by conducting interviews using a 44-page questionnaire. Based on the interview they are prompted to classify these OLQs as group quarters (nursing homes, religious group living quarters, hospitals, hospices, group homes), transient (hotels, motel, single-room occupancy, campgrounds, marinas). They can also classify OLQs as nonresidential, vacant or even housing units.

The handheld computers have been ditched but the hugest obstacle in this operation is paper. I can’t imagine what it is like in places like Kansas where there is probably one census office for the entire state. But in a metropolitan city such as New York moving this much paper through the public transportation system like subway, bus or even in cars is a logistical nightmare.

You have to be a census employee to really fathom the extent of this problem but I will do my best to try to give you an idea. In Group Quarters Validation the lister’s assignment is contained in an address register. The register has the following:
address listing pages: a listing of all the housing units and OLQs in the entire assignment.
questionaires: one or more 44 page questionnaires used to conduct the interview (called survivor questionnaires)
additional labels with barcodes associated with the building (called nonsurvivor labels)
map pouch with maps of the assignment area and blocks in that assignment

The address listing pages contains the OLQs and every single housing unit on the entire block and print on single sided legal size paper. (We were told that the printers can not be defaulted to double sided printing because the Census would be in violation with contract terms they have with the supplier.) The procedural manuals say that the additional housing units are used to help the lister locate the OLQ. But in New York City the listing of each housing unit in each multi-apartment building make our address listing pages tenfold in size. Some blocks in midtown are so huge that the address listing pages have to be divided into multiple binders.

The Census Bureau doesn’t realize this but paper is a hassle. They have to spend money on paper to print it, clerks to shuffle this paper, couriers to move it into the field and back into the office and additional staff to process, check the handwritten work for quality and transcribe it into a computer.
With a hand held computer a crew leader simply transmitted an assignment to a lister and when it was complete the lister could send it back to be approved. Now we are hiring couriers to move these address registers out into the field and back into the office. We also have a team that runs a night shift to examine this paper. Any paperwork not filled in correctly is run back into the field. I can’t imagine what it is like for places in middle America where they have to drive hours. Luckily for us we can get to most places within an hour.

The questionnaire is another problem. Each questionnaire is 44 pages however the lister only asks several introductory questions and it directs him to complete one of the fifteen tabs in the questionnaire. Each interview uses approximately 5-8 pages of the questionnaire. But with a paper questionnaire the lister has to be very careful to follow the skip pattern, ask the correct questions of the respondent and mark appropriate box. He/she also has to write the correct address status codes on the address listing pages and additional labels. The crew leader checks each questionnaire, each label, and each address listing page.

When each questionnaire arrives back into the office a clerk must simply check the questionnaire’s skip pattern. However since the clerk is not trained in field procedures there is an office review checklist for each questionnaire that is four legal size pages. Each non-survivor label is put on a sheet and information written on the label by the lister is transcribed. Then another clerk uses a final office review checklist that is another four pages to check that all the survivor questionnaires and non survivor labels sheets are accounted for and that they match the address listing pages. We then mail out thousands of 44-page questionnaires and non-survivor labels sheets priority overnight Federal Express to the National Processing Center in Jeffersonville Indiana.
With a handheld computer the program would direct you to follow the correct skip pattern and answer the next question depending on how the respondent answers. Then they wouldn’t have to hire clerks to check the skip pattern of each questionnaire and transcribe non survivor labels to label pages. Simply put every piece of paper needs to be accounted for and the task can be daunting. We had staff resign because the older employees simply said that they couldn’t carry these address registers for an entire crew of listers which sometimes are up to fifty pounds. Understandable after all even the young guys in our office have to go out in pairs sometimes to pick up or deliver address registers.

Even time sheets are now paper. Each employee fills out a time sheet for each day worked. He/she gets the a carbon copy and the original goes to payroll.

So between the paper in the address listing pages, the 44 page survivor questionnaires, non-survivor label sheets for the field staff and the checklists the office staff have to run through on each questionnaire, non-survivor label pages and address register in the office you can see the decennial census not only destroys the rain forest, $14 billion can add up pretty darn quickly.

The Census Bureau’s Unintentional Jobs-For-Felons Program

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

The following piece was written by David Allburn, who owns National Fingerprints, LLC and does not represent the views of Stephen Robert Morse or MyTwoCensus.com.  It should be noted that the Census Bureau rejected David’s unsolicited proposal to integrate his company’s services into 2010 Census security procedures.

To assure integrity and to comfort the public, Congress insisted on a fingerprint background check of canvassers for the 2000 census. The Bureau begged-off that time on grounds of insufficient time and funds, but promised they would do both a name-check and a fingerprint check for the 2010 census.

Next March the Bureau will mass-hire more than 500,000 canvassers to visit homes that did not fill out the form. Evident to the canvassers will be: Which homes have burglar alarms, disabled children present, an overworked single mom, expensive décor and vehicles, etc. Such “data” is not sought by the 2010 census. And it probably IS unthinkable that a census canvasser would assault or steal from homeowners during their census visit. But if a census worker was previously arrested for such crimes there is increased risk they might seek to list such unofficial “data” for use in criminal activity later. That is probably what Congress was concerned about when they insisted that former felons not be hired as canvassers.

It might have been tolerable in the 2000 census that only a couple of assaults were committed by canvassers, but the 2010 census will be different. Not just because there are a lot more felons on the street, and a lot fewer recession-jobs for them, but because the Census Bureau screening method for canvasser candidates will attract them.

Felons will automatically resort to half-century-old methods for evading the criminal history name check and fingerprint check. These obvious methods will work this time because the Bureau has chosen fingerprint procedures and policies which are a full century-old. The situation was fully described to the Census Bureau in a classified section of our August 2008 proposal. The first part, about felons getting hired, was publicized in the recent GAO report and the Senate hearing. The second part, about attracting felons to apply in the first place, was not. We begged Census program office officials to consider the impact of this on public confidence and the Bureau’s PR expenditures should it leak out. Sadly, it doesn’t have to leak. It’s evident to felons already, and will probably be left to YouTube and Jay Leno to “further advise” America about it. I hate to think of Jay Leno “interviewing” (comedians) Gilbert Gottfried as the print-taker engaged in fingerprinting applicant Fred Willard.

Knowing that bad prints generate a “you’re hired” outcome, felons will do what they already do to get a job: Use the internet to obtain fake names and buy convincing credentials that pass the name check. Now trainees, they will exploit the 100-year-old “grapple method” of fingerprint capture selected by the Bureau. In this method the Bureau’s “print-takers” grasp each of the trainee’s inked fingers one at a time and roll it onto a card like it was a rubber stamp. If several prints are blurry the print-taker has to start over. But time is limited, and the process depends on GOOD COOPERATION BY THE TRAINEE.

There is cooperation all right, but it not good. While the print-taker grasps each of the fingers, the applicant feigns helplessness, and causes the finger to squirm, tremble, or press down too hard on the card. Since there is limited time for re-takes the trainee just runs-out-the-clock. This forces the unreadable prints to be routinely shipped to the central card-scan facility where they are scanned into, and rejected by, the FBI. Since re-takes are logistically impossible, the felon gets hired as if he passed anyway, by reverting to reliance on the (fake) name check.

Our proposal warned strenuously about this vulnerability, not only for the predictable 20% rejection rate, but also for the liability: If poor print quality were to cost honest trainees their jobs, it could create a cause-of-action because the blurry prints were arguably the fault of the print-taker, not the applicant. (It appears that consideration of this risk may have caused the absurd “you’re hired” policy when prints are unreadable.) We considered this information so sensitive at the time that we packaged it into a classified section of our proposal. It showed exactly how to plug this gaping security weakness with two simple steps:

(1) The Bureau should announce that trainees are responsible for the “readability” of their own fingerprints, and that fingerprint “failure” due to un-readability (or to discovery of disqualifying criminal history), terminates the canvasser’s employment. This stops attracting ex-felons who would intentionally blur their prints, but it is manifestly unfair to honest workers whose fingerprints are blurred by the inexperienced print-takers. This is fixed by step two.

(2) The Bureau should augment its fingerprint capture by adopting part of our patented “self-capture” technique. Invented by a war veteran, the method has applicants use an extra minute or two to make their own set of “backup prints”, observed and authenticated by the print-taker. Barcoded and enclosed with the cards forwarded to the scanning center, those self-captured prints are readily available for fixing any individual print impressions found “bad.” Well tested, this gets the cards through the FBI with the same dependability as live-scanning offers, typically twenty times better than the old rubber-stamp method now in use.

For the few cases where prints are still unreadable the fault lies clearly with the applicant and not the Census Bureau’s print-taker. This forestalls thoughts of lawsuits and class actions. The method fits easily into the current logistics, gets everyone’s prints promptly evaluated by the FBI as intended, doesn’t require logistically impossible re-takes, and discourages ex-felons from trying to exploit the process.

All that’s needed is for the Bureau to invite an amendment to the proposal. A better/faster/cheaper method, simpler than the full-blown method originally proposed, is described in the patent and is readily available and easily deployed to fit the existing logistics. Fortunately it’s neither too late nor too expensive to fix the problem.

One last thing: The Census Bureau is getting a bad rap on print-taker training. They must have trained them well, and the print-takers must be good at it, because those folks are apparently achieving the same 20% FBI reject-ratio that experienced law enforcement officers get, those few who still use that old manual card-rolling method.

Census Director Groves Talks Language Assistance in SF

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

By Sonja Sharp for MyTwoCensus.com

What do you get when you toss together 57 languages, $300 million and a five pronged attack? Well, if you’re Robert M. Groves, Director of the US Census Bureau, you hope you get a slightly better count.

If there’s one clear message that everyone can take from Groves’ presentation at San Francisco City Hall today, its that the ethnic press is alive and well. Immigrant groups across the country have expressed unparalleled interest in the 2010 census, making today’s event particularly well attended. But questions about how well the census will actually be able to reach those immigrants still linger.

In case you don’t read Cantonese or Tagalog, here’s the breakdown:

The Census Bureau has totally ramped up its PR campaign for 2010. In total, it plans to spend $3oo million, nearly all of it in targeted, local advertising. The emphasis here is on language outreach, small ethnic newspapers and foreign language TV and radio.  During the first week of March, letters introducing the census  will go out to every home in America. Three hundred million of them, currently sitting in a storeroom somewhere in DC.

Those will direct non-English speakers to a call center where no fewer than 57 languages are spoken. Unfortunately, the census is only available in six: English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian and Vietnamese. Tagalog was removed after 2000.

But speakers of Urdu, Khmer and  Burmese are in luck! A quick glance at some yet-t0-be released “language assistance forms” (which basically translate the entire census into a third language) show a wealth of other, less widely spoken languages in the cache.

For many, language is less of a barrier than fear, and fear may be hard to staunch, since the Obama administration has made clear it won’t end immigration raids in April.

“As you might imagine, the ability of one federal agency to ask another federal agency to cease activities consistent with their mission is almost zero,” Groves said. ” There will be no formal request to the dhs for the halting of those raids.”

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Dr. Groves, You’ve Got Your Stats Wrong This Time

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Today, the Washington Post reported the following:

Robert Groves said the bureau is trying to determine whether it is feasible to require a second security check on job candidates whose fingerprints cannot be read the first time they are run through the FBI database. The bureau is spending $100 million this year checking fingerprints, the first time it has done so for temporary workers.

Last week, the GAO said it estimated that more than200 temporary employees with unreadable prints might have criminal records that should have disqualified them from being hired.

Groves said people whose prints are hard to decipher tend to be older workers whose ridges have worn down with age or manual workers whose jobs have made their prints less sharp. The average age of temporary census workers with unreadable prints was 63 for men and 55 for women.

While it may be true that the fingerprints of older workers are more difficult to read, this should not take away from the fact that no individuals with disqualifying criminal records should be hired to work for the census. And who’s to say that there are not older individuals who have criminal records? MyTwoCensus.com disagrees with Dr. Groves’ efforts to brush off the GAO’s findings as inconsequential or overstated.  In fact, we suspect that individuals with criminal records would know how to easily go undetected by the Census Bureau’s lax fingerprinting procedures, a topic that we will cover in greater depth in the near future.

Senators try to exclude illegal immigrants from 2010 Census

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana is not a fan of the 2010 Census. MyTwoCensus does not support the proposed amendment that is discussed below. H/t to Haya El Nasser of USA Today for the following story:

A controversial amendment that would require the Census Bureau to ask for the first time whether people are in the USA illegally is headed for a Senate vote Wednesday.

Proposed last week by Republican Sens.David Vitter of Louisiana and Bob Bennett ofUtah, the amendment would exclude illegal immigrants from the population count used to allocate congressional seats after the 2010 Census. It also would require the Census to ask people whether they are citizens.

“Illegal aliens should not be included for the purposes of determining representation in Congress, and that’s the bottom line here,” Vitter says. If enacted, the amendment to an appropriations bill would stop funding of the 2010 Census unless the changes are made.

The amendment comes less than six months before 2010 Census questionnaires are mailed to 135 million households. About 425 million forms have already been printed, according to the bureau. Some are in different languages; others are duplicates that will go to houses that do not respond to the first mailing.