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.

On the Closing of the Be Counted and Questionnaire Assistance Centers . . . and Beyond

The following press release represents the opinions of the Latino Census Network, not MyTwoCensus.com:
by the Latino Census Network (April 21, 2010)

The Latino Census Network has received a number of inquiries about the closing of the Census Bureau’s Be Counted and Questionnaire Assistance Centers. Members of the New York City Council have written to the Census Directors asking that these centers be kept open for an additional 30 days. Other have expressed surprise that these centers have closed.

The Census Bureau informs us that these centers had been scheduled to close on April 19th from the start. Because these were established through contracts with community-based organizations and other institutions through contracts, it would be difficult to extend these agreements at this point.

The Census Bureau’s focus now is on their Non-Response Follow-up (NRFU). Door-to-door census taking occurs starting May 1nd through June and early July 2010. Local census takers will visit households that did not mail back a census form. All census takers carry an official badge and a shoulder bag – both with the Department of Commerce seal – and a binder. During a visit, census takers will show ID and hand respondents an information sheet explaining that their answers are confidential. The census taker will complete the questionnaire, which should take about 10 minutes. If no one is home, a “notice of visit” will be left at the door inviting the resident to call the census taker to complete the form over the phone.

With the mail-in participation so close now to the 2000 Census rates at the national level, the Census Bureau no doubt sees this mail-in part of the process a success. It is expected that in the next week or so, additional Census forms will come in, making it possible that the 2000 participation rate will be matched. Given all of the factors that make this 2010 Census more challenging than the last (9/11, greater anti-immigrant sentiment, etc.), this level of mail-in participation is considered a success, at least at the national level.

Title 13, U.S. Code, requires that the apportionment population counts for each state be delivered to the President within nine months of the census date, by December 31. 2010. According to Title 2, U.S. Code, within one week of the opening of the next session of the Congress, the President must report to the Clerk of the House of Representatives the apportionment population counts for each state and the number of Representatives to which each state is entitled. Also according to Title 2, U.S. Code, within 15 days, the Clerk of the House must inform each state governor of the number of representatives to which each state is entitled.

The legislatures in each state are responsible for geographically defining the boundaries of their congressional and other election districts–a process known as redistricting–and more detailed census results are used for these purposes. Public Law 94-171, enacted by Congress in December 1975, requires the Census Bureau to provide state legislatures with the small area census population tabulations necessary for legislative redistricting. The Census Bureau must transmit the total population tabulations to the states by April 1, 2011.

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8 Responses to “On the Closing of the Be Counted and Questionnaire Assistance Centers . . . and Beyond”

  1. SAM Says:

    You really need to look over your work for spelling and grammatical errors before you publish stuff. Otherwise, I like what you’re doing. I’m a Field Operations Supervisor with the Census and I have worked as a Job Recruiter/Examiner and an Address Canvasing Enumerator in the last 12 months. I get a chuckle out of the stuff you guys are finding. Keep up the good work.

  2. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    The above piece is not from our organization. It’s a press release from the Latino Census Network. Hopefully the spelling/grammar mistakes you refer to are not our fault :)

  3. Rosa Says:

    I was a QAC (questiong assistance representative) in Indianapolis. This is probably not true in all localities but our QAC centers had very little activity after the first two weeks. I worked in Public housing offices, church commmunity centers and libraries and had to hustle to talk to anyone.

    I did pass out a lot of Be Counted replacement Census forms..especially in the first two weeks and answer some questions but mostly I was paid to read some good books. At the very least the next time we need big Red Ask Me about the Census buttons to Help us out. I made homemade signs and tried to sit in high traffic areas (even though the offical spots were out of the way) but people did not really know why I was there.

  4. wblower Says:

    Here in my state, the QAC sites were NEVER, and I repeat NEVER set up for nor were they staffed for anything remotely resembling logical time slots. They were only a few hours in the morning and two or three hours in the afternoons. NEVER on the weekends, when ordinary working people could have been helped, nor after 4 or 6 PM on weekdays.

    This makes NO SENSE. What a stupid, ridiculous waste, this whole thing has been.

    And they stuck the QAC areas and staff back behind library shelves, in out of the way offices, back in the back rooms, with ZERO publicity from the regional office communicating to the public as to where, when, why, etc.

    The QAC folks I visited / interviewed had over the space of the few weeks they were hired for, helped an average of 2 citizens.

    TWO.

    Pathetic. The census bureau officials act like they’re new at this, they never had a census before and don’t know what they’re doing. Well they’ve got nearly two hundred years of census history and that’s enough time to learn how to do a few things right. Instead, they’re doing more and more things so wrong, and wasting huge amounts of the public’s money.

  5. GS-X Says:

    Rosa,
    Thanks for your post. Unfortunately, your training did not teach you the difference between Be Counted forms and Replacement forms. Be Counted forms go through different processing than Replacement forms.
    Residents who made any mistakes on the address section of their Be Counted form are unlikely to be enumerated. Replacement forms already had the address on them; residents did not need to fill it in.

    The QAC in my neighborhood never had any customers the several times I walked by it.

  6. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    Wblower – what state are you in? have any more details? Thanks! srm

  7. Rosa Says:

    We gave out Be Counted forms because people were reluctant to call the Census and the people I talked to who did had trouble getting forms sent to the house. One person said when she called because she lost her form the Census people kept asking for some serial number that she didn’t have because she had lost it…

  8. Ken Dupuy Says:

    By the time I found out about “Be Counted” it was all shut down! The constitutional requirement is once per decade; that’s a whole year! How can you shut down a program before anybody even had a need to inquire about it? Around here (Hammond & Robert, LA) the USPS takes 3 weeks to go from one town to the next, ~8 miles via US 190 (35-40 minutes via bicycle), so how can I expect a form to get here that fast? The letter precluding the form got here, but not the form itself. Why not just send the form? I heard about the statistics, but I don’t see how sending a letter prior & a postcard after can do more for response rates than SENDING THE ACTUAL FORM! How can the Dept of Commerce expect a response if they NEVER SEND A CENSUS FORM? Why not send it WITH the letter? Uncle Sam’s already wasting an estimated ~$60/person to scope out people who didn’t reply, and they never even gave anyone a chance to respond to Be Counted! They sent me 2 last time (2000)! What a waste: advertising during the Superbowl, but not sending any forms out! How ignorant! I called the number on the postcard (the one that says to return the form I never got), since I “had trouble filling out my form” (since I have no form), but its so automated that all they’re concerned about are interpreting questions on this fictitious form I’ve never seen (except on census.gov), & the only useful thing I found there was a mailing address to send the homemade form I finally broke down I sent. Considering most people in 1790 were illiterate, I can only assume my letter & homemade form meed or exceed the 1790 census standards. If a 2010 census employee comes around after my reply, I’ll feel compelled to launch a FW&A (Fraud, Waste, & Abuse, a really big deal in the DoD, where I work) investigation. I’m generally an easy-going kinda guy, & will let some stuff slide, but I’ve met nothing but negligence & resistance for the entire 2010 Census. However, in my 2010 census “quest”, I’ve never been able to get actual person, but the longer it goes, more adamant I expect to be.