Since 2000, the Republican Party has sent out mock-census forms to fundraise for GOP candidates — but this year, these mailings may get confused with real Census forms.
The mailer, which arrives in an envelope marked “DO NOT DESTROY, OFFICIAL DOCUMENT” and labeled with a “tracking code,” contains 36 questions on political issues and a request for a donation.
The questionnaire includes items such as “Do you think the record trillion dollar federal deficit the Democrats are creating with their out-of-control spending is going to have disastrous consequences for our nation?” and “Do you believe the Obama Administration is right in dramatically scaling back our nation’s military?”
A “knowledgeable Republican operative” explained the mailing’s benefits to Politico’s Ben Smith:
Of course duping people is the point…that’s one of the reasons why it works so well. The others: low per piece cost — they drop hundreds of thousands of pieces at a time, and will likely mail millions this year. And incredible targeting.
But citizens and politicians alike are objecting to the content. Organizing for America Tennessee director Justin Wilkins told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that the mailings are “disappointing” and “vilifying, fearmongering rhetoric,” and conservative writer Ira Stoll raised objections about multiple aspects of the ‘census’ forms:
It’s problematic for three reasons. First, it uses the word “census” repeatedly to convey the false impression that it is a government document. “DO NOT DESTROY OFFICIAL DOCUMENT,” the envelope says. Inside, the letterhead says “2010 Congressional District Census” and includes a survey with faux-official language like “Census Tracking Code” and “Census Certification and Reply” and “Census Document.” The text of the letter includes a sentence that says “And when you send back your completed Census, I urge you to also demonstrate your commitment to the Republican Party by including a generous donation of $25, $50, $100, $250 — or even $500.” All this could easily dupe an unsuspecting target into thinking, incorrectly, that it was part of the real 2010 government census.
Two reports recently issued by the Office of the Inspector General, one the latest quarterly report on the 2010 Census, released last month, and one on the top management challenges facing the Commerce Department, released this month, shed new light on potential issues and trends to watch with this year’s Census.
First, the December report acknowledges that the Census Bureau is moving forward with its important operations for the year, including the completion of address canvassing in July and and group quarters validation in October.
The address canvassing, while completed successfully last year, was $88 million — almost 25 percent — over budget. In order to make up for this overrun, the Census Bureau is now revising its budget for non-response follow up.
One major concern addressed in both reports is the Census Bureau’s ability to successfully develop its paper based operations control system (PBOCS).
After the Census Bureau abandon plans for handheld computers to deal with non-response follow-up, the Bureau took over the development of the PBOCS; this means, the report says, that the system will have to be completed much more quickly:
As a result of the highly compressed schedule, the system will undergo less testing than desirable. And once deployed, there is no margin for error. Hundreds of thousands of NRFU enumerators must be able to receive and submit completed assignments, and the bureau must be able to monitor progress. Documented contingency plans currently do not exist, and in the event PBOCS experiences serious operational problems or failures, the decennial schedule would be seriously jeopardized and costs would surely increase. Successful PBOCS development, testing, and implementation represent one of the most significant decennial challenges facing the Department.
This month’s report also addresses the rising cost of the Census and the need to develop cost-effective strategies this year to prevent the necessary funding from skyrocketing in the 2020 Census. According to the report, the price of conducting the Census has doubled every decade since 1970 — meaning the 2020 Census could cost almost $30 billion unless new strategies are developed this time around. The report describes the Census Bureau as an “insular organization that eschews open dialogue with outside parties and even its own regional offices,” saying that outside input must be sought in order to create new, cost-effective strategies.
The reports address other Census-related risks being discussed by the Census Bureau, such as what to do in the event of an H1N1 influenza outbreak. The Census Bureau’s Risk Review Board began drafting plans for H1N1 outbreaks in October.
San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi will introduce legislation requiring Census workers to be allowed in Single Room Occupancy hotels so their residents can be accurately counted, according to a post on the San Francisco Chronicle’s blog, City Insider.
Mirkarimi successfully advocated similar measures for election workers to be allowed into the “notoriously hard-to-access” SROs three years ago, the blog post said.
The plan is just part of San Francisco city officials’ major push for an accurate count:
Ensuring all San Franciscans are counted in this year’s census has been a focus of city officials over the past several months since they maintain the 2000 census undercounted residents by nearly 100,000 people, costing San Francisco $290 million in federal dollars over the past 10 years.
Mirkarimi’s announcement will come just a day after the 2010 Census Road Tour was launched outside San Francisco’s City Hall.
After the large-scale displacement of Gulf Coast residents during the 2005 hurricanes, local governments and community groups are calling for a special count of the region — and Census Bureau director Robert Groves agrees, according to local paper the Shreveport Times.
“The fair thing to do for the country is to do another count of that area later on,” Groves said in an interview with the paper. “They’re rebuilding. They want more people there. People are coming back.”
A special count would make up for the fact that many of the region’s residents still will not have returned by the April 1, 2010 deadline.
The separate count — which would not take place until at least 2012 — is not uncommon. Groves told the Shreveport Times that the Census Bureau has conducted more than 300 special counts since the last Census in 2000, primarily for growing communities looking for more federal funding.
But the major obstacle still facing the region, the article explains, is how to pay for this count:
Groves said the governments could seek federal or private funding.
Marc Morial, chairman of the Census Bureau’s 2010 Census Advisory Committee and president of the National Urban League, said Congress could include the cost of the special census in the 2011 budget.
But congressional lawmakers, including Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., chairman of a subcommittee that oversees the Census Bureau, have raised concerns about the cost.
Despite the cost, Groves was optimistic that the region could find funding for a special count if there’s enough interest in the idea.
“I’m not saying it’s cheap, but somehow other areas have gotten the political will to assemble the money,” he told the Shreveport Times. “It is a matter of will.”
The Census Bureau already plans to take special measures in the region for 2010′s major count, such as going door-to-door to make sure residents receive their questionnaires.
Leaders of the National Urban League and the NAACP — as well as Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson — say they’re worried that the 2010 Census will drop the ball on accurately counting African-Americans. Here’s the full story, from the Associated Press, on their meeting with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke yesterday:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Black groups on Wednesday urged the government to improve the count of African-Americans in next year’s high-stakes census, saying they won’t be satisfied with a tally that has historically overlooked millions in their community.
The National Urban League, the NAACP, Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson met with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to voice their concerns the Census Bureau might not be doing enough to ensure an accurate tally. Roughly 3 million blacks were missed in 2000, while many whites were overcounted.
”The undercount of blacks in the last count and the overcount of whites by 1 percent is not just a Washington statistic,” Sharpton said at a news briefing after the meeting. ”It manifests itself in goods and services that cost us.”
”We want what is ours,” he said.
The groups called for the Census Bureau, an agency of the Commerce Department, to expand its paid advertising to cities such as Newark, N.J.; Oakland, Calif.; parts of Mississippi and other areas that have high percentages of hard-to-count blacks, many of whom are distrustful of government workers.
They also are pushing for more census funding specifically targeted at black communities. About $23 million, or roughly 17 percent of the $133 million allocated for media buys, is currently earmarked for black communities to promote the census.
The black leaders said they wanted to see a change in how the government tallies prisoners, so they are counted as residents of the cities in which they previously lived, not in the places where a prison is located.
”There are a lot more things that have to be done for us to say that we are confident that this plan can address the historic undercount in this nation,” said Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and chair of the 2010 Census Advisory Committee.
Commerce officials said the Census Bureau would take a second look at its $300 million communications campaign to determine if there are ways to make it better. The bureau kicks off its ad campaign next month and will conduct its head count via mail and door-to-door canvassing next spring.
”African Americans and other minority communities have been consistently undercounted in past censuses so we’re grateful to the respected leaders we met with for their commitment to achieving an accurate count,” Locke said in a statement.
The population figures, gathered every 10 years, are used to apportion House seats and distribute nearly $450 billion in federal aid.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D- N.Y.) and three other Senate Democrats are urging the Census Bureau to target the long-term unemployed when making its 2010 hires. Here’s the full story from the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON — The Census Bureau should look to the long-term unemployed when it staffs the 2010 census, a group of Senate Democrats said Wednesday.
The census “is providing a once-in-a-decade opportunity to put a good number of Americans back to work,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
The Census Bureau responded that “in these difficult times, we’ve made it a priority to hire reliable people who need jobs.” It said the agency has worked with the Labor Department to recruit people looking for work and has partnered regionally and locally with one-stop employment centers. The bureau said it has also worked with state and local governments to ensure that temporary census workers not lose certain benefits.
Schumer and three other senators wrote Commerce Secretary Gary Locke urging that the bureau target the long-term jobless as much as possible when it temporarily employs some 1.4 million next year for the census.
“These jobless Americans are exhausting their unemployment insurance benefits in the weeks and months ahead, and the administration should do everything in its power to use federal employment opportunities to help them,” wrote the senators, including Mark Begich of Alaska, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
Census jobs, ranging from data processing to canvassing neighborhoods, are expected to pay between $10 and $20 an hour.
The senators said the Census Bureau should coordinate with the Labor Department to recruit people at unemployment centers.