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.

Criminals Possibily Hired to Conduct Census

As I reported two weeks ago when I questioned Dr. Robert Groves at a press conference that he held at the National Press Club, criminals have been hired to work for the 2010 Census:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 (UPI) — Errors by U.S. Census Bureau employees could have resulted in 200 people with criminal records being hired for canvassing, a government report said.

The Government Accountability Office said Census Bureau employees improperly fingerprinted thousands of people as part of background checks for workers hired to interact with the public door to door, The Hill reported Thursday.

The GAO report expressed concern that the checks performed on improperly fingerprinted employees were incomplete.

“It is possible that more than 200 people with unclassifiable prints had disqualifying criminal records but still worked and had contact with the public during address canvassing,” the GAO’s Robert Goldenkoff told a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday.

Goldenkoff said the bureau’s training program was a reason for the improper fingerprints, adding that the bureau “will refine instruction manuals and provide remediation training on proper procedures” to prevent a recurrence.

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12 Responses to “Criminals Possibily Hired to Conduct Census”

  1. jim Says:

    you realize the difference between ‘criminals’ and ‘former criminals who have served their time’, right? otherwise, we might as well not have a justice system. i understand that this goes against requirements for census hiring, but still, the way you use language is umportant.

  2. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    I understand the difference. And I presume our readers do too. Thanks.

  3. ANON Says:

    Using ones social security number would show a criminal history as well if a background check was actually conducted……………..

    I have been conducting background checks on individuals for many years and it is more than a fingerprint(s) that are involved in the process. SS numbers, address, etc are all part of the process. I don’t buy the spin that the government is blaming this on faulty fingerprints when there are so many other checks and balances in place to verify the truth of someones background.

  4. Ex-IT Says:

    There is a significant portion of the population – around 5% – that do not have fingerprints that are distinctive enough for identification. I think that this is especially true for older workers who have have a lifetime of wear and skin aging. There were certainly a lot of Census workers who had problems with the fingerprint scanners on the Harris HHCs during address canvasing. It is also challenging to fingerprint somebody who has arthritic hands.

  5. Mark Says:

    The article says the prints of 200 people could not be read. One would expect that a normal percentage of these are criminals, or say 5-10% at most, resulting in 10-20 criminals doing the canvassing. Any number is unacceptable, but it is inflammatory journalism to report the 200 number without this critique, no? Unless I am missing something, I would suggest a clarification be added.

  6. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    To readers interested in this issue:

    On Friday I had the opportunity to interview Robert Goldenkoff, the Government Accountability Office’s Director of Strategic Issues. The interview is currently being transcribed and edited and will be available for you soon.

    Many thanks,


  7. House of Brat Says:

    I’m with you Jim on the “former criminals” language. Also, there are huge differences in people’s “criminal records.” Just having a criminal record does not mean that someone will do their census job incorrectly. The US imprisons the highest percentage of its population than any other country in the world.

  8. Derick Moore Says:

    From Derick Moore, public affairs specialist, U.S. Census Bureau

    National Fingerprint, LLC submitted an unsolicited proposal that the Census Bureau reviewed last year after fingerprinting was already occurring in the field for the Address Canvassing operations. National Fingerprint did not offer to handle finger print processing, but instead proposed to provide training for Census staff. Moreover, the process they proposed was not markedly different from the process that we already had in place. Implementing any new solution this late in the process was not feasible because the operation was already underway.

    At the U.S. Census Bureau, the safety of both our workforce and respondents is our top priority. That’s why the bureau has gone beyond what’s required this year and taken unprecedented steps to ensure that the 2010 Census is the safest decennial census ever. For the 2010 Census, every temporary staff member must submit to a background check by providing two sets of fingerprints ― a significant security improvement from the 2000 Census, which, like every other previous decennial census, required only name background checks.

    In the end, only workers who have passed an FBI name check work on the census. The vast majority of our workforce has passed both the name check and a full fingerprint check.

  9. MD Fingerprint, LLP Says:

    First I would like uplift the Census for even doing fingerprint checks. If not required, then for having it done. If I am not mistaken it was required for 2000 Census but the Census got a pass from Congress on doing it. Why are we waiting until 2009 to fingerprint if required by Congress ten years ago? It just makes sense to fingerprint. In fact, in some States it’s the law. Most companies who hire persons in some States are required by State law to do it. The reason that some criminals would slip by is that the Census appears to be conducting their own INK fingerprinting. Ink has a 30% error ratio against live scan. I do not know why they do not contract a company like ours to conduct the fingerprinting. We are experts in rolling prints and using live scan technology to do it. If they are serious about catching those who slip by then why waist time on old ink prints. You can not teach old dog new tricks I guess. As a police officer or trained professional do they know how to detect tricks made on the prints? Can and does the printer observe the work of the print to avoid rejections. If you hire the person and ink prints get rejected two times or three times then several weeks (6-8) have gone by trying to get results. Do you hire the person and train them giving them access to information and then say “oh sorry prints came back have to let you go”? Does this not open yourself up for a lawsuit? With live scan, prints are back in two days before you even hire them. You tell me what makes sense, old ink prints by untrained cheap labor or quality time efficient technology? Why not have all those temping agencies which give the Census temporary workers get it done for them? I would have all contractor temp companies get it done on behalf of working for the Census. I hope the Census will be ready for 2020 or maybe we can ask Congress for another pass on all those fingerprints. I am just glad they are doing it but don’t be fooled I believe it is required but the illusion is we (Census) are going beyond just a name check but look at us (Census) we added fingerprinting because we want to be thorough. I could be wrong I am just glad they are doing it. I expect it if someone is coming into my home.

  10. My Two Census » Blog Archive » Letter To The Editor: Fingerprinting Issues Need To Be Addressed Says:

    [...] 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: [...]

  11. ANON Says:

    I completely agree with MD Fingerprint LLC. Having a company like his/hers come in and complete all fingersprints would have been ideal. Having sat and watched “cheap labor” try and learn the finger print process was a complete 3 ring circus. It was especially interesting that the employees that were responsible for fingerprinting “new hires” didn’t even have their background checks back yet…….so who knows if they weren’t criminals themselves………………

  12. herm Says:

    Am I a criminal if I got caught with a pinky nails worth of marijuana in Iowa….oh…yeah I can’t do this I guess.