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 the ‘White House’ Category

From Our Inbox: A New 2010 Census iPhone App

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

From Zubin Wadia of CiviGuard:

MyTwoCensus Team,

I figured you as someone who might be interested in publishing our Census taking app for the iPhone…

http://www.icensus2010.com

The Census Bureau will not allow people to respond to surveys online… I assume this is because it is very difficult to ensure no duplicity or contamination of results (from hackers etc.).

The http://2010.census.gov site debuted about 2.5 weeks ago… and it had the 2010 form available in English and Spanish for anyone to review. A few days earlier at the Government Technology Conference I had the privilege to hear Vivek Kundra speak to us.

One thing that resonated deeply with me was his vision for a world where agencies share their data and vendors organically come up with solutions. The Census Bureau did just that. They put the form online. They made their travails public. I thought it was a travesty that the USA, in 2010, cannot allow people to do electronic censuses.

So I created an iPhone app with my team for it. It can easily be ported to the Android platform in 2 weeks. And even if the public may not be able to use it – the Census Bureau perhaps can. We are still 100+ days away from Census day 2010… which leaves plenty of time to perform any back-end integration with their address database.

The paper version of the form can be downloaded in PDF here:

http://2010.census.gov/2010census/pdf/2010_Questionnaire_Info.pdf

About the App:

- Checkboxes are hard to do on the iPhone (not a supported component out of the box) – but it works great for this use-case and we made it happen.

- Once a survey is done (takes 2 mins for normal cases), a JSON message is created, it is encrypted, compressed and sent to a REST-style web service on Google’s App Engine.

- The system uses GeoTagging to add a layer of validation. You must be within US territories. You must be within 1 mile of your home billing address related to your cell number. Then you can do a census. One census per household.

- Integration with Telecom databases and the Census Address DB is of course pending. Our expectation is that the application will have enough buzz to yield next steps with the Census Bureau.

About CiviGuard:

http://www.civiguard.com

We focus on Public Service 2.0 solutions for the US Government. Our core focus is emergency management – our CiviCast platform is the first solution in the world to offer guided evacuation or isolation guidance to civilians during a crisis. This is far more capable and detailed vs. the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) specification currently being pursued by the Fed.

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.”

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.

Government Will Not End Raids Prior To 2010 Census

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Check out the following little discussed story from the Associated Press that shows the Obama Administration taking an immigrant unfriendly position:

WASHINGTON (AP) — With the 2010 census six months away, the Commerce Department said Thursday it won’t seek a halt to immigrationraids as it did in the previous census in hopes of improving participation in hard-to-count communities.

In a statement, the department said it is committed to an accurate count of U.S. residents, including both legal and illegal immigrants. Spokesman Nick Kimball said officials will not ask the Homeland Security Department to stop large-scale immigration raids during the high stakes count that begins April 1.

That position is a departure from the one taken in the 2000 census, when immigration officials at the request of the Census Bureau informally agreed not to conduct raids. The bureau two years ago asked DHS to hold off again in 2010, but that was rejected by the Bush administration, which said it would continue to enforce federal laws.

On Thursday, the Commerce Department echoed that position and said it would not be revisiting the matter.

”Our job is to count every resident once, and in the right place, and that’s what we do,” Kimball said. ”All the information the Census Bureau collects is protected by law and will not be shared with any other agency. Neither the Commerce Department nor the Census Bureau will ask DHS to refrain from exercising their lawful authority.”

It remained unclear what Commerce’s stance might have on the likelihood of immigration raids next year. In recent months, the government has said it was seeking to shift enforcement efforts more toward criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants as well as cases in which an illegal immigrant may pose a safety threat to the community.

The Commerce statement comes as the Census Bureau enters the final stretch of preparations for the decennial count, which is used to apportion House seats and distribute nearly $450 billion in federal aid. With an effort to overhaul U.S. immigration laws expected to take place sometime next year, Census Director Robert Groves has said he’s particularly worried that tensions over immigration will deter people from participating in the count.

2010 Census Operational Briefing Transcript and Commentary

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Editor’s Note: Last week, I live-blogged Census Director Robert M. Groves’ first monthly press conference to discuss the 2010 Census. I was able to ask a question to Dr. Groves at the meeting, but unfortunately, it wasn’t answered in the comprehensive way that I’d hoped for, in part due to a poor telephone connection. The transcript from this press conference is below.  Starting tomorrow, MyTwoCensus will be publishing the results of our investigation into what we believe are lax human resources procedures at America’s three 2010 Census data capture centers.

National Press Club

September 23, 2009

Stephen Buckner:  Good morning everyone.  My name is Stephen Buckner.  I’m in the Public Information Office at the U.S. Census Bureau.  I’d like to welcome everybody today to our first 2010 Census Operational Press Briefing.

To run down how the day is going to proceed a little bit, this will be the first in a series of operational press briefings of which the Census Bureau will provide, as we get closer and closer to the 2010 Census – as of October 1st, we’ll be about six months out.

Right now we’re currently looking at doing them every month.  As we get closer to the census, we’ll be looking at increasing frequency as operational milestones approach.

Today we’re lucky to have the Director of the Census Bureau, Robert Groves, who will be talking about his assessment of the 2010 Census operations, both from our address canvassing operation and looking ahead in terms of some of the challenges we have heading into the 2010 Census.

So after his presentation, I’ll come back up and will be moderating a question-and-answer period, of which we have here in the room as well as on our telephone line that media are listening into.  So we’ll alternate between in the room and on the telephone.

So if you could just hold your questions until after the presentation, then we’ll have ample time to do that.  For the television in the room, we’ll have media availability afterwards where you can do interviews with the director as well.

At this time I’d like to introduce our Director, Dr. Robert Groves.

Robert Groves:  Thank you, Stephen.  Good morning.  I’m going to have two parts of my comments today and then take questions.  The first part is really just an update on where we are.  As Stephen said, we’re six months out.  The April 1, 2010, date is looming ahead of us.

And we are on target for the major operations that plan this event, which is a gigantic mobilization of people and resources to enumerate the American public.

We have just completed over the summer an effort called Address Canvassing whereby hundreds of thousands of workers visited every address in the U.S. to verify that we knew where it was, that we had an appropriate mailing address, and we entered those addresses into a massive file that we call the Master Address File.

That is a big milestone in the planning of the census, because it’s from that address file that we mail out millions of forms.  That was completed on time.  We’re examining the file right now.  It’s a big deal for us to get this right.  And within a matter of weeks, certainly at our next conference, we can give you evaluations of that.

In just a couple of weeks we’ll do a follow-up operation on that.  One of the problems in doing a census in a country like ours, when we have large multi-unit structures, things we call group quarters, things like dormitories and assisted living facilities and things like that, that it’s easy to miss one of the residents of those things unless we make sure we have the address information and the characteristics of the units correctly documented.

We’re doing something special this decade to cover those well and we’re doing a big operation just in a couple of weeks visiting all those around the country.  We are in the middle of opening about 500 local census offices spread throughout the country.  These are small offices where enumerators at the last phase of our work will be supervised and trained and guided in their work.  That’s on schedule, on time. We are printing questionnaires.  We are using a good portion of the printing capability of this country.  We will print 183 million questionnaires, plus 15 million bilingual questionnaires, getting them ready.  This is going on right now.  You can sort of feel the presses whirring away.  We’re on schedule on that as well.

We have opened three very large processing centers; one in Baltimore, one in Phoenix, and one outside of Louisville and Jeffersonville, Indiana that will receive these forms and scan them in and extract the electronic data from those questionnaires.  That’s going pretty well.

And we’re in the middle of opening up call centers that will be used, incoming call centers, for questionnaire assistance, when people need it.  We’re also at the first stages of a pretty massive communications campaign that we could talk about later, if you want.

So to sum up that, things are looking pretty good.  All the steps that need to be in place have been done at the right time.  We have much to do.  This is a massive effort.  And we’re happy to share with you our progress on that.

And indeed that takes me to my second major point.  I pledged when I was nominated to run a transparent Census Bureau.  And what I did following that pledge is also promise that I would do an evaluation, a personal evaluation of where the Census Bureau planning effort was.  I’ve completed that.  I’ve reported to the Secretary of Commerce those results and just yesterday we had a hearing on the Hill that reported that.

And I want to report through you to the American public the same sort of assessment, because I’ve promised it.  And there’s sort of three parts to this:  One is, as a survey methodologist, comparing the design of the 2000 Census to the design of the 2010 Census.  And here the headline I’m very comfortable to say is really that I would prefer the 2010 design.  And I’ll tell you why that’s the case.

This is a short form-only census.  If people don’t understand that term, you can look inside your packet and see an image of the questionnaire that we will send out.  This is one of the shortest questionnaires we’ve done in a decennial census.  Why are we doing it this way?  We’re doing it this way because we learned in prior decades that long questionnaires generates more burden on the American public, and cooperation, participation in the census goes down.

So we’re trying to reflect the busyness of the American public’s lives and reducing the questions to the bare minimum.  We’re very hopeful that will act to increase public participation.

Secondly, as some of you know, we’re sending out for the first time bilingual questionnaires to targeted areas where Spanish-only speakers are prevalent.  On one half — I think you may have that in your packet, too.  On one half of the questionnaire is an English version, and the other half is a Spanish version.  Our research over the years has shown us that that improves participation in Spanish-only households.  And that’s an important and growing component of the country and we’re proud of that design.  I think it’s a preferable design to the 2000 design.

Thirdly, in a large portion of the areas, if you don’t turn in your questionnaire the first time, you’ll get a replacement questionnaire in the mail, just as kind of a gentle nudge that you haven’t done your part to make the census successful.

We’ve studied this process in survey methodology for some decades, and that works.  Most people who don’t turn in the questionnaire immediately aren’t deliberately doing so.  They just forgot about it.  They put it over on the desk on the side with other papers they have to work on.  And that replacement questionnaire helps.

Thirdly, there are things that are going to make this a stronger census if they work properly.  We have a couple of questions on the questionnaire that address a problem that we have and that’s relevant to today’s world, and that is it’s a question about whether there are people staying in your home who also have a residence elsewhere.

You and I both know we’re going through a recession in this country where houses are doubled up in ways that are unusual.  That question is going to be an important way to help us evaluate and follow up to help people follow the rules of census residency appropriately.  And we have another question about whether the people living here also might stay somewhere else at another point.

So those questions should improve the differential undercount of the 2010 Census.

There are a couple of other operations that should improve the master address file.  And for those of you following this story routinely, you know that the Census Bureau was given about a billion dollars in stimulus funds that we’re using to good goals, I believe, in improving the advertising, the paid advertising program and a massive outreach for partnerships at a very local area to improve our access to trusted voices in small communities that have the credibility we need to tell people that it’s an important thing to do.  It’s really easy, and it’s a safe thing to do for communities that have those concerns.

So on this first part, if I as a survey scientist, put the design features of the 2000 design next to the 2010 design, I’m really quite comfortable that we have planned in this country a better census than we executed in 2000.

And then there are two sets of challenges in my professional judgment that the Census Bureau faces.  I want to go through those briefly, by way of informing the country of those judgments.

First, on the internal side, we have a new leadership team at Census.  As you know, the terminated development of hand-held computers for non-responsive follow-up produced a change of leadership.  This is a new team.  It’s a team that’s structured quite well in terms of identifying management risks and planning risks.  And that’s a great benefit to them.  To bolster that team, I will continue the use of a set of outside advisors that I’ve brought in when I entered.  This includes Former Director Ken Prewitt and Principal Associate Director John Thompson, as well as drawing on Nancy Potok, Former Principal Associate Director, now the Deputy Undersecretary for Economic Affairs.

The second thing that worries me about the Census Bureau is something that I worry about for all federal statistical systems and that is there’s been a set of key retirements of senior mathematical statisticians.  This is true of a lot of federal agencies.  This is a weakness I’m worried about.  And my reaction on that, too, is to bring in advice from the outside when we need it on those sorts of matters.

Third, the problem with the hand-held development led to the Census Bureau taking on a big programming development operation.  We’re in the middle of that.  It’s a group of people working night and day to finish up a set of software that we need for the non-response follow-up phase.  Things are on schedule on that.  But the schedule is very tight.  We’ve developed a set of outside review groups, who have been giving me advice on that.  We’ve made some changes in that process with the intent of integrating their activities with others and addressing IT security issues.

We’ll continue to do that.  Fourth, I’ve referred to already, I can’t wait to see the quality of the Master Address File.  I’ll be able to tell you about that in a few weeks.  That’s an important building block.  And, finally, I’m worried and concerned about cost estimation and cost control in the Census Bureau; but this, too, is a problem shared by many federal agencies.

We’re beefing this up with more real time data to watch the process of spend-down of our rather large budget.  There are four principal challenges in these external challenges that I want to mention.  I think the most important thing for you to remember is that the behavior of the American public is the keystone of a successful census.

Estimating what percentage of American households will complete their questionnaire and mail it back in is a very important burden and challenge for the Census Bureau right now.  For every one percentage point reduction in the mail return rate, scores of millions of dollars are going to be spent by the taxpayers to send people out and knock on doors.

For the American public who are worried about the national deficit, here’s something you can do.  If you return your questionnaire, you save the federal government money.  And I can tell you right now I would be overjoyed as the Census Bureau to give back money to the U.S. Treasury because the mail response rate was overwhelmingly large.

This is a big challenge.  It’s a challenge that we’re focused on very intently.  But we need your help.  As voices to the American public we need the help of all social, political and religious leaders to get the word out that the census is a nonpartisan event.

It’s a safe event for everyone to participate in, and its success depends on the behavior of each of us.  That’s the biggest challenge.  There are some other challenges that are worth noting.  The new media environment is a challenge for us.  The blogosphere produces hourly minute-by-minute news articles on the Census Bureau by people from around the world.

Getting the facts out about the census is a challenge in that environment.  We’ve organized an internal group to work on that.  We have Web-based media outreach plans that will be launched within the next few weeks.  Thirdly, the same environment challenges our desire to remain a nonpartisan apolitical organization, and to run a nonpartisan census.

There are tugs on us daily to get into the political fray.  It’s my firm belief that the basis of credibility of the census rests on the belief of the American public that we are nonpartisan and we’re apolitical and we’re a professional statistical bureau, and I need to fight that battle daily, I can tell you.

Finally, we are not collecting data via the Internet in 2010.  It’s an important story to get out.  But we expect that at one point or another someone will put up a Web site that will wrongly say that they’re from the Census Bureau and attempt to deceive the American public and collect data from them.  We’ve established a group that’s going to look for this, troll the net looking for these things and bring down these sites as fast as we can.

We don’t want that deception to harm the basis of the census.  So those are my remarks.  I’m going to make four changes to the census design that are really looking forward to the 2020 Census.  They are that we will build what’s called a Master Trace file that allows us to track the characteristics of cases throughout their whole lifecycle.

This is really a cost/quality trade-off tool, research tool.  We will mount a small Internet re-interview study for purposes of studying how people respond to Web versus paper.

We will mount in one fashion a post-hoc administrative records census.  We’ll match census records to the administrative databases we’ve acquired in cooperation with other federal agencies to see, if we did an administrative records census, say, in 2020 what kinds of people would be covered and what kinds of people would be missed, what kinds of data would be well reported in the records, which would not.

Then finally the fourth change that we’re making is I’ve looked at the tool that we call Census Coverage Measurement.  This is a large sample survey that’s used to measure the quality of the census.

And when I look at the design of that and read evaluations from other scientists on that design, there are features of that that I’d like to improve.  I think we can do better on that design.  We’re beefing up the measurement and the match procedures on that tool at the risk or at the cost of reducing the sample size of that evaluative tool.  So those are my remarks.  I’m happy to hear questions, if you have them.

Question:  Could you discuss a little bit your decision to sever ties with ACORN?  Was it the video, or was that the last straw?  Or could you give us your thinking on that?

Robert Groves:  Let me first set the context.  I think it’s important to understand what our goals are in this thing we call the “Partnership Program.”  Every western country has learned that doing a census in a diverse country requires outreach to trusted community members.  Running the census out of Washington D.C., running our census out of Washington D.C. alone doesn’t work.

So the effective way to get participation from diverse American publics is to use voices in their community that understand the facts of the census, the importance of it, the simplicity of it, and the safety of it, and to communicate that message directly to their relevant groups.

ACORN was one of those groups.  These are groups that are not paid.  These are volunteer groups.  Their commitment to us is that they’ll help us get our message out.  That’s about it.  They are not paid employees.  We don’t have contracts with them.

We’re going to seek to have over 100,000 of these groups around the country.  I’ve been traveling the country, talking to some of these groups and they are fundamentally good ideas.  These can be as small as a few-block neighborhood, a community neighborhood organization that’s worried about the beauty of the neighborhood.  But they have ties to the houses in that neighborhood.

Now, how do we decide who is a good and who is a not good partner?  Our decision on that is the effectiveness of their communication to one of the groups that we care about.

We’re most interested in what we’ve labeled as hard-to-count groups.  These are people who normally participate in the census at lower rates.  And through our studies over the years we have a fair idea about the characteristics of those people.

ACORN served people that fall in those groups.  We care about those people participating in the census.  But when one of our partners produces problems in the overall mission of the census, then we have to rethink that.

I just came back from the Chicago region, and I talked to partnership specialists, and they were telling me:  The existence of ACORN as a partner and the negative press and the actions of the local groups affiliated with ACORN were actually impeding their getting other partner agreements in Chicago.

So I want to carefully say that the people served by ACORN are important to us.  We need their participation in the census.  The press on ACORN and the actions of these local affiliates of ACORN became a distraction for us and it was actually hurting our overall effort of getting the census facts out.

Question:  I have a question and – Sheila Buzzard with Fox News.  You talk about transparency as one of the very important things for your Bureau.  What assurance, talking about ACORN, can you give to the American public that your efforts will not be motivated politically, because you said that you get pressure every day?

Robert Groves:  My efforts at what?  I heard your question but I don’t understand your question.  What do you mean by “efforts”?

Question:  Your efforts and your cooperation with local organizations such as ACORN in your work.

Robert Groves:  Let me say a bit about the Census Bureau and what we’re all about.  This is an organization that is explicitly apolitical.  So I am protected and all my colleagues are protected by certain legal infrastructure that gives us great courage and strength.  If political officials want to see data that we have collected confidentially and we’ve given a pledge of confidentiality to the person who gave us the data, we can refuse this.  In fact, if we don’t refuse it, I can go to prison for five years and I’ll have a $250,000 fine and all my colleagues have that.

We take that really seriously, because we also have a culture and a belief system that is completely consistent with that.  We know that our business, our organization succeeds only if the American people believe the numbers we put out.  I know of countries in the world where there have been political interference into numbers from statistical agencies and the people lose faith in those numbers.  Rebuilding the faith in those numbers takes decades.

I took this position not because I needed a job, but because I believed this thing very strongly and I want to strengthen that feature of the Census Bureau.  So up and down our organization, we are apolitical, nonpartisan, and we are fiercely so.

Question:  Were you already – just a follow-up.  Were you already thinking of dropping ACORN when the video came out?

Robert Groves:  We’re evaluating – we’re constantly evaluating things.  One thing about statisticians is they do something and then they stop and they say:  How well did we just do with what we did?  We’re obsessed by this.  We’re always evaluating our partnership effectiveness.  We have partnership specialists that reach out to individual partners to help them succeed.  And that is also an evaluation step.  So it’s an ongoing process.

Stephen Buckner:  We need to take one from the phone.  We’ll open up the phone line for our first question, please.

Operator:  First question is from Amos Brown, WLTC Radio.

Question:  Good morning, Director.  A couple of questions from the heartland of America - Indianapolis.  I heard you talking about the importance of these smaller groups working with the census, what you all are calling Localized Complete Count Committees.

But here in Indianapolis there’s been a lot of confusion and a lack of direction from census staff in terms of what are the responsibilities of these Complete Count Committees.  When census employees have gone into neighborhoods, the neighborhoods think they’re coming on behalf of the city Complete Count Committee.  That’s one issue.

The other thing is it just seems – and this will be my fourth decennial working with the Census Bureau.  It just seems that there’s a lot more confusion and disconnect this time.  As you evaluate how this census is working, how are you evaluating the level of communication out at the local level, out in the real heartland of America?

Robert Groves:  Well, thank you for the question, first of all.  And, secondly, I’m glad for the information.  This is also a useful way to evaluate how we’re doing.

The risk – one comment on what you’re saying, we do run a risk when we have hundreds of thousands of partners that the message get conflicting unintentionally.  We’re on this problem.  It’s a trade-off decision between reaching different groups and having the same group reached by multiple people.  It’s one that we’re constantly monitoring something that concerns us.  On this difference between the Complete Count Committee and other census activities, let me do by way of a little definition.

Complete Count Committees are often established by local communities, often have government officials and community leaders populating them as a formal way to get their message down and sometimes they sponsor their own events to get the word out from the census and it sounds like in this particular case there’s a little mixed messages going on.  And thanks for the input.

Question:  My name is Matt [Inaudible] from the Tribune.  Senator Bob Bennett introduced legislation last week that would add a question to your form that would require the person to identify whether they were in the country legally or not.

The purpose of this, he said, would be to back those people who were here illegally out of the count for apportionment purposes.  He thinks that’s inappropriate.  My question to you is, is it feasible to add a question to the form at this time?  And, two, do you think that’s a good idea?

Stephen Buckner:  We’ll take this question, then go back to the phone lines.  Dr. Groves.

Robert Groves:  First, I think as I said when I was doing my introduction, a lot of the forms are already printed and that train has left for the 2010 Census clearly.

The good idea, question I think is best answered by going back to history.  Why are we doing what we are doing? In March of 1790, Congress passed the Census Act.  The Census Act said that the census, the decennial census every 10 years should count everyone living in the country where they usually reside.  That applied to every census since 1790.

The proposal to back out noncitizens where you could imagine – well, you could imagine such a census design, would break that tradition that we’ve had these many, many decades.  Whether it’s a good idea or not, I think the answer to that is that if you read the Constitution carefully, you will see that the decennial census is done in a manner that Congress, by law, shall direct.  It is a creature of Congress in the Constitution.

So the introduction of new laws about how the census might be done, if you study the history of this, come up routinely.  They tend to come up a lot around the decennial census time.  That’s true.  But they come out – they come up throughout the history.  This is the proper role of Congress to discuss these things.  But it would be a change from our history of many, many, many decades.

Question:  Do you think it would impact who would respond?

Robert Groves:  I have no idea how people would react because of that question.  That’s a really hard question to answer.  I don’t know.

Stephen Buckner:  Just for clarification, we do not ask the legal status of an individual on any census survey or decennial census.

Any questions on the phone?

Question:  I have a follow-up.  You spoke about all these addresses and the completion of the process of collecting all the addresses.  Did ACORN work in that effort?  And if so how confident are you in acting –

Robert Groves:  ACORN didn’t work on that effort.  All those employees were paid census employees.  They were screened through FBI checks about their criminal background.  They were trained in how to do their work.  They were supervised.  There were quality control procedures, and if they didn’t follow those procedures they were terminated.  They took this oath that I just described to you.  They were held to that oath, because we treat their work as subject to the same confidentiality law as when people knock on doors and ask questions of people.

Question:  Deborah Berry with Gannett Washington Bureau.  Senator Ritter and Shelby and have raised concerns about sampling.  How do you balance that with the concerns raised by civil rights groups that many groups, particularly minorities, are undercounted?

Robert Groves:  Well, we at the Census Bureau must do our work under the law as passed by Congress, as acted on and interpreted by the Supreme Court.  And for the 2010 Census, it’s absolutely crystal clear what our guidance is.  The Supreme Court ruling that said that statistical adjustment, I think that’s what you mean by sampling, statistical adjustment of the census for reapportionment purposes is not permitted.

We are not planning, and I testified on this, and Secretary Locke is very clear on this as well, we’re not planning – we’re not prepared to adjust the census for any purpose.  We’re not planning it for reapportionment or redistributing.

Question:  Meredith Simmons, Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau.  You said you faced pressure every day to politicize the census in some way.  Could you be more specific about –

Robert Groves:  Gee, I hope I didn’t say that.

Question:  I those that’s what I heard.

Robert Groves:  I hope I didn’t use those words.  I’m glad you asked your question.  But finish your question and let me respond to it.

Question:  Maybe you used the word “tug.”  But could be a little bit more specific about what sort of tugs you’re experiencing and how you respond to them?

Robert Groves:  This isn’t unusual, first of all.  And you would only know that if you – it would be an interesting exercise in your spare time to go back to your paper, your medium 10 years ago and read the stories that your colleagues wrote.  The same thing happened 10 years ago.  The same thing happened 20 years ago.  The census is really important.  It really is.  It’s important because we reapportion the House of Representatives on it.  We distribute over $400 billion a year based on the figures.  We redraw the portrait of the United States every 10 years.  We tell ourselves what we’re about.

So people care about this.  One of the purposes of the census is inherently explicitly political, the reapportionment of the House.  That is proper.  That’s constitutional.  The Founders thought about it.  It’s a great idea.  Because it is political, people with very strong political viewpoints care about the census.  That’s the tug.

And what we have to do as statisticians, as a nonpartisan group, is to acknowledge that the product of what we do has political uses.  But the process can never be politicized.  And that’s the thing I have to focus on as the Director every day.  And so while these voices that you hear and you write about care about the census for political purposes, I have to keep a deaf ear to that side and make sure that we’re focused on a census that is right down the middle, and that’s what we do.

Question:  Voices, do you have people calling you – when you say “voices,” do you have people calling you and asking you to add questions, or are you talking about what you read and what you –

Robert Groves:  I do the same thing you do, right?  So we’re constantly seeing what people are saying.  That’s your job.  And I have a little bit of your job of watching what people are saying about the Census Bureau.  That’s part of my job, because I want to make sure that the facts are represented right.  So I read the same things you read, and that’s what I mean by that.  So people aren’t calling me on the phone or anything like that.

Stephen Buckner:  We’re going to try to take just two more questions, then we’ll have media availability afterwards.  In the back row.

Question:  I’m Libby Casey with Alaska Public Radio.  And some officials up in Alaska have said that Norvik, a village up there, will be the first.  There’s been some back and forth.  And could you describe the length you’ll be going to in rural parts of America, like rural Alaska, what sort of efforts you’ll be making that may be different than 10 years ago or that you learned from 10 years ago?

Robert Groves:  This is the most damaging leak that has occurred.  Norvik, Alaska, a very small village in Alaska, will be the first village, the first population that will receive the census forms.  This is in a way a ceremonial event.  But it’s an important event.  We have to, it turns out, enumerate Alaska early, because there are some parts of Alaska that get really inaccessible later on.  So Alaska is first out of the blocks on this one, and it is true that Norvik is our selection this decade.

Your other question was broader.  And that is what do we do in rural areas.  I’ve been emphasizing, I think in my remarks so far, about mailing out the census.  There are some parts of the country that don’t have mailing addresses.  They don’t get their mail at home.  They drive into the Post Office, pick up their mail.

In areas like that, and in some areas where the address system and change in the area has been quite dramatic.  For example, the Gulf Coast and areas that Katrina hit hard, really badly, we’re going to actually hand deliver questionnaires.  And we will drop them off and people will fill them out and mail them back in.

In some areas we’re actually going to go out and immediately enumerate people.  So the one-liner on this is we figure out the best way to enumerate depending on the area and we’ll tailor our methods to the area.

A recent change on this, we’re very interested in customizing our methods to language groups, groups that don’t speak English.  And we’re studying where we could effectively actually give out in language information in groups, small geographically clustered groups that are non-English speakers to be an effective outreach, too.

The big moral is we sort of try to figure out the best way to get people to participate and then we’ll change our methods to fit their situation.

Stephen Buckner: Max in the back.

Question:  Thank you.  Max Tackus from WTOP and Federal News Radio.  Dr. Groves, you sort of weren’t here for the whole situation with the hand-helds kind of falling apart for the Census Bureau.  Can you give us a readout of sort of what you know about how the address survey canvassing has been going with the use of the hand-helds?  And with the benefit of hindsight, what do you think the Census Bureau could have done better to have made for a better outcome in terms of being able to use the hand-held computers also for the census, for the follow-up surveys, the nonresponse follow-up surveys?

Robert Groves:  You’re right.  I wasn’t there when that decision was taken or the developments went on.

I can report on the address canvassing side because I’m terribly interested in the product of that.  So I’ve studied that and got briefed on that.  And all the reports there are there were some glitches, operational things that people found workarounds on.

We removed some things that are called large blocks.  So if an enumerator went to a place where there might be a thousand or 2,000 housing units, say places around here where they’re densely-filled apartment buildings, we didn’t use the hand-helds there, we used another method.

So one of the things the Census Bureau does well, in my opinion, and I thought this before I got this job, too, is when they hit a little glitch, they get workarounds developed pretty quickly.  With those workarounds, these hand-helds worked well enough for address canvassing.  I don’t see anyone critiquing that.

They are not ready and explicitly not ready for other uses of them, and indeed those other uses were the problematic developmental glitches that led to the decision to turn the nonresponse follow-up into a paper operation.

Your other question is what would I have done differently?  I haven’t even looked at that decision process carefully.  I view that as sort of water over the dam.  I’m worried about the product now and going forward.  So I’m not very good at answering that question.

Stephen Buckner:  Okay.  We had just a couple late additional questions on the telephone.  We’re going to take those, then we’ll go to media availability.

Operator:  We have a question from Stephen Morse of mytwocensus.com.

Question:  Hi, can you hear me?

Robert Groves:  Hello.  Good morning.

Question:  Hi.  Dr. Groves, my question actually, census processing centers in Phoenix, Baltimore and Nevada, and I was wondering how well the workers are being screened at these processing centers, the subcontractors?  The screening process in terms of getting background checks on the people who have access to very sensitive information.  I was wondering if you could talk about that.  I know there are people who have misdemeanors and people accused of felonies working at these processing centers.

Robert Groves:  You know, Stephen, are you on Skype?

Question:  I am right now.

Robert Groves:  I’m having trouble understanding you.  I got about every third word.

Question:  Let me try one more time.

Robert Groves:  Let me try to paraphrase.  Are you asking whether we screen the workers of the contractors in the processing centers, is that –

Question:  I want to know about that process, exactly.

Robert Groves:  They go through the same process that our Census Bureau workers do, I mean our employed, our Census Bureau employees do.  There’s a reason for it.  They’re handling the same protected confidential information that our workers are.  And so that process is the same, if that’s your question.

Question:  I wonder, if these people have access to very personal information from millions of Americans, and if the person, say, commits a crime [indiscernible], and they start working six months later, they might [indiscernible] for the Bureau, are there any checks in place to prevent that kind of action from happening?

Robert Groves:  I’m sorry, what is it?

Stephen Buckner:  Stephen, we’ll follow up with you.  I believe the paraphrase was whether or not those employees within the contracted facilities that are processing the forms as they come back in are under the same employment conditions and quality control procedures that are employed in the field.  And the answer is yes.  They are census employees via the contract mechanisms to process those forms.  So it is a lifetime confidentiality.  The same penalties apply.  They cannot share any of that personal information.  They are census employees via the contract that is set up to process those questionnaires over 130 million of them as they come back to those data processing facilities.

All right.  Do we have any more questions on the telephone?  Okay.  We’re going to end the question-and-answer period.  Right now we’ll have a brief media availability.  I know the television cameras want to do a couple of interviews.  Thank you so much for coming.  We’ll try to set up a schedule for these and send out notices to you in the near future about our next one, but probably every month or as we have developments around the 2010 Census.  But thank you for joining us here today and thank you for joining us on the telephone.  Have a nice one.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Keep Up The Good Work Dr. Groves!

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

At Dr. Robert M. Groves’ confirmation hearing to become the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, it was reassuring to hear a career statistician and manager discuss his vision for a Bureau that was in great need of reform. However, at that time it was only natural to worry that Groves was simply a man of words who needed to get past what could have been a controversial confirmation process. Four months after making many promises to change the Bureau, Dr. Groves has proven that he follows through with actions.

Despite GOP partisans stalling Dr. Groves’ nomination over concerns that he would bring his political views to the 2010 Census, Dr. Groves’ has proven to a level-headed, fair, honest, transparent, and decisive leader. As he stated yesterday at his first major press conference, he is constantly trying to be persuaded to enter the political fray but fights every day to maintain his independence. Dr. Groves’ rejection of political overtures is what will make his tenure different than those of past Census Bureau leaders.

An excellent Census Bureau director must have superior statistical knowledge, superb management skills, and an ability to answer honestly to both politicians and the public. In his first months in this role, Dr. Groves has succeeded in all of these areas. With his decision to terminate the Census Bureau’s partnership with ACORN, Dr. Groves unequivocally proved himself as a leader who put the Bureau and the people of this nation ahead of the Democrats who supported him from day one and the president who nominated him.

Dr. Groves inherited a Census Bureau that was filled with disorganization, mismanagement, and a lack of foresight. Turning this agency around cannot occur overnight, and MyTwoCensus does not place blame on on Dr. Groves for most failures of the 2010 Census. Though his first 70 days in office have been marked by success and progress, there is still much work to be done with April 1, 2010 only six months away.

How ACORN Got Dumped by the Census

Friday, September 18th, 2009

By Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC-10)

When ACORN was announced as a national partner with the Census Bureau, I had grave concerns that the accuracy and integrity of the 2010 census would be jeopardized.

One of ACORN’s responsibilities would have been to recruit census workers.  Given ACORN’s propensity for falsifying government documents, it seemed illogical that their employees would now be handling census forms.  The Census Bureau was, in effect, inviting fraud in the 2010 census.

As the Ranking Republican on the Census Oversight Subcommittee, I privately encouraged the Bureau to reconsider.  Subsequently, the Bureau and I engaged in a confrontational public dispute over their relationship with ACORN.

The Bureau would eventually listen to reason and agreed that ACORN could not be trusted to recruit census workers, but they continued to defend their partnership with this criminal enterprise.  When the despicable conduct of ACORN was caught on tape and broadcast on BigGoverment.com, the Bureau officially got out of the business of apologizing for ACORN.

New Census Bureau Director Robert Groves deserves our respect for doing the right thing.  Immediately following his confirmation, Director Groves pledged to me that he would seriously review ACORN’s partnership status.  It is clear to me that Director Groves had ACORN on a short leash.

Director Groves’ decision is particularly remarkable considering that he was appointed by a Democratic President with close ties to the group.  ACORN has essentially become the political field staff of the Democratic Party.  Without question, there are many people in the Obama Administration who are unhappy with Groves’ decision.

Being dropped by the Census Bureau is proving to be a tipping point for ACORN, which has received at least $53 million in taxpayer funding.  In March, Senator David Vitter offered an amendment that would have prevented ACORN from receiving additional federal funding.  That amendment failed 53-43.  On Monday, a similar amendment passed 83-7.

The floodgates have opened.  Today, the Los Angeles Times offered harsh words for ACORN in a scathing editorial and Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is questioning ACORN’s federal funding.

Now, every federal agency and every elected official must seriously reconsider their relationship with ACORN.

White House: ACORN Behavior Is Unacceptable

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Thanks to Jake Tapper of ABC News:

At today’s White House briefing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, asked by ABC News about recent government actions taken against ACORN, had a forceful response.

“Obviously the conduct you see on those tapes is completely unacceptable,” Gibbs said, raising the issue of videotapes posted online by BigGovernment.com and aired frequently by Fox News Channel that seem to show ACORN employees advising a faux prostitute and faux pimp on how to skirt housing and tax laws. “The administration takes accountability extremely seriously.”

Gibbs said the Census Bureau decided that ACORN could not assist the group in meeting “the bureau’s goal of achieving a fair and accurate count in 2010″ and that some other agencies are evaluating their relationship with the group. “We constantly evaluate to ensure that any grantee is living up to what has to happen in order to fulfill that grant application.”

Census Director Robert M. Groves’ Letter To Sever Ties With ACORN

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Find the letter below:

September 11, 2009

Ms. Maude Hurd

President

ACORN

739 8th St SE

Washington, DC 20003

Dear Ms. Hurd:

The goal of the U.S. Census Bureau’s partnership program is to combine the strengths of state, local, and tribal governments, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, schools, media, businesses and others to ensure an accurate 2010 Census. While not (sic) Census bureau employees, partners are advocates for census cooperation and participation. They serve a trusted voices within their communities and are critical to our strategy to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.

The Census Bureau has established criteria for partnerships, which are listed on our Web site at <www.census.gov >, and reserves the right to decline partnership or to terminate an existing partnership agreement with any group that 1) may create a negative connotation for the Census Bureau; 2) could distract from the Census Bureau’s mission; or, 3) may make people fearful of participating in the census.

To that end, and in keeping with the standards we shared with your organization and others who volunteered to partner with the Census Bureau to help promote the 2010 Census, we are today terminating our Partnership Agreement with ACORN.

Over the last several months, through ongoing communication with our regional offices, it is clear that ACORN’s affiliation with the 2010 Census promotion has caused sufficient concern in the general public, has indeed become a distraction from our mission, and may even become a discouragement to public cooperation, negatively impacting 2010 Census efforts.

While not decisive factors in this decision, recent events concerning several local offices of ACORN have added to the worsening negative perceptions of ACORN and its affiliation with our partnership efforts.

We do not come to this decision lightly. It was our original assessment that your organization could be helpful in encouraging cooperation with the 2010 Census among individuals who are historically hard to count, including renters, low-income residents, the linguistically isolated, and others. As of today, we have close to 80,000 partnership agreements with national and local groups – many of whom are trusted voices and serve these same populations – and we will be relying upon those groups to continue our outreach in the communities you serve. The full participation of those populations remains of utmost importance to us.

Unfortunately, we no longer have confidence that our national partnership agreement is being effectively managed through your many local offices. For the reasons stated, we therefore have decided to terminate the partnership.

Respectfully,

Robert M. Groves

Director

MyTwoCensus.com Plays Significant Role In Decision To Dump ACORN

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Just hours after the below letter was circulated to members of Congress, Census Director Robert M. Groves decided to drop ACORN from its role as a partner organization with the 2010 Census:

Spot Check: ACORN

Dear Colleague:

I would like to direct your attention to the following post by Stephen Robert Morse on MyTwoCensus.com, an independent watchdog blog on the 2010 Decennial Census.

Mr. Morse was attempting to determine whether ACORN is recruiting census workers.  The Census Bureau has assured the Subcommittee on the Census that it instructed ACORN over the telephone not to recruit enumerators.  However, I am concerned that this message has not been thoroughly transmitted to the entire organization.

We will be requesting documentation that the Census Bureau has sufficiently notified ACORN of its approved responsibilities as a 2010 Decennial Census partner.  Simple written instruction from the Bureau to ACORN would help allay public fears about their involvement in the census.

The majority of recruitment of temporary census workers will not begin until the end of the calendar year.  I and my colleagues on the Subcommittee will continue to stay vigilant regarding ACORN’s involvement in the 2010 Census and work with the Census Bureau to ensure an apolitical and accurate decennial count.

Sincerely,


PATRICK T. McHENRY

Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Information Policy,
Census, and National Archives

ACORN turns in Fla. workers on voter fraud charges

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Just a week after I announced the findings of my spot check of ACORN’s activities in regard to the 2010 Census, the organization is back in the news in a very bad way. Check out the following report from Curt Anderson of the Associated Press:

MIAMI — Armed with a tip from the grassroots group ACORN about its own workers, authorities on Wednesday began arresting 11 people suspected of falsifying hundreds of voter applications during a registration drive last year.

ACORN, which stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has long been accused by Republican and conservative activists — fed by talk-radio hosts — of fraudulently registering voters. But Miami-Dade prosecutors gave credit to the group for coming forward and ACORN officials said they felt vindicated.

“It shows that we take the integrity of our voter registration work with the utmost seriousness,” said ACORN spokesman Brian Kettenring. “We turn in people who try to game the system.”

Although ACORN is nonpartisan, its registration efforts focus on low-income and minority populations who tend to vote for Democrats; critics contend those efforts frequently bend or break registration rules. At times during the 2008 presidential campaign, people attending rallies for Republican nominee John McCain broke into chants of “No More ACORN!”

Last year, ACORN’s national drive produced some 1.3 million voter applications.

ACORN first detected problems in Miami-Dade County in June 2008, according to a letter the group wrote to prosecutors. Investigators eventually determined that 11 canvassers, who were paid between $8 and $10 an hour, were turning in fake registration cards, mostly from the Homestead area.

“This is really about money. These are people who decided not to work,” said Ed Griffith, spokesman for Miami-Dade State Attorney Katharine Fernandez Rundle.

The 11 workers each face multiple counts of two felony charges: false swearing in connection with voting and submission of false voter registration information. Each count is punishable by up to five years in prison.

The suspects collectively turned in about 1,400 registration cards, of which 888 were later found to be faked. Some contained names of celebrities such as actor Paul Newman, while in other cases the same real voter’s name was used on multiple applications. There was no evidence anyone voted who should not have.

The FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement had made five arrests by midday and were looking for the remaining suspects. ACORN officials said the group regularly reports suspected fraud to authorities nationwide but the Miami prosecution marks one of the few times the complaints were taken seriously.

ACORN itself last year was the subject of fraudulent registration complaints in Missouri, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Ohio, Michigan and North Carolina, among others.

Uh-Oh, Bad News: New Reports From In The Inspector General

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

MyTwoCensus obtained the following reports from the Commerce Department Inspector General’s Office last Friday, but we thought we’d give the powers that be a long weekend of relaxation before they start to fret…and we must add, they will be fretting. Throughout this week we will be providing commentary and analyses, but for now here are the three reports that you should take a look at:

Census 2010: Problems Encountered in the Large Block Operation Underscore the Need for Better Contingency Plans (OIG-19171-02)

http://www.oig.doc.gov/oig/reports/2009/Final%20Census%20Large%20Block%20Flash%20Report.pdf

2010 Census: First Quarterly Report to Congress Report (OIG‐19791‐1)

http://www.oig.doc.gov/oig/reports/2009/QTR-1%20First%20Quarterly%20%20Report%20to%20Congress%20080609.pdf

Recommendations from 2010 Census: First Quarterly Report to Congress, August 2009 (OIG-19791-l)

http://www.oig.doc.gov/oig/reports/correspondence/QTR-1%20FINAL%20Report%20Recommendations.pdf

Spot Check: ACORN

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

So, the Census Bureau has assured members of Congress that ACORN is NOT involved in the recruiting process for candidates hoping to be among the 1.4 million Americans who will work for the 2010 Census. I decided to contact a bunch of ACORN offices throughout the country and ask them if they could help get me a job to see if this was true. Here’s what I found:

Note: More than half of the ACORN offices I called had phone lines that were no longer active. Some of the e-mail addresses I contacted were also no longer working and bounced back to me. (Hmmm…Do you think that ACORN’s bad publicity during the past yer could have caused the organization to lose just a little bit of non-profit funding? It certainly looks that way to me.)

When I called each office, I said, “Hi, I heard that you could help me get a job with the 2010 Census. What do I have to do?”

Washington DC ACORN – “We have no idea. You have to take a test with the Census. Do you know how to go to that site? We have nothing with the Census Bureau. You have to go on the web site then go to www.ACORN.org…”

Pittsburgh ACORN – “We don’t have that contract.  I don’t know who has it. You know the Hill House? They have a new employment center. Those people should know who’s hiring for the 2010 Census.”

Philadelphia ACORN – “I don’t know too much about the census. We are one of a couple of thousand partnership organizations. We haven’t had any information yet, but you should try back in a couple of weeks.”

Atlanta ACORN – “Go online to ACORN.org and that’s where you’d have to put the application in. That’s where you would put your application in.”

At this point, her phone line went down and she kindly called me back from her cell phone. She had me send her an e-mail with my request as her land-line phone was experiencing problems. I sent her an e-mail but it bounced back to me.

Among the ACORN offices I e-mailed, I received only one response, and it came from the Southern regional office:

To Whom It May Concern:

I am currently out of work, and I heard that ACORN was hiring for the Census. Can you please let me know how I can work for the Census in our area?

Thank you very much,

Stephen Robert Morse

The e-mail responses:

Dear Mr. Morse:

Thank you for contacting ACORN.

Unfortunately, no one we know of at ACORN has any idea where this notion came from.  We have no census work, never heard of any and don’t expect to hear of any census work.

Please contact the U.S. Census bureau or your local congressperson for information regarding working with the census.

Best regards,

G. Brown

CONCLUSION: At this time, it doesn’t appear that ACORN is recruiting on a national level to attract candidates to work for the 2010 Census, but that’s today, September 2. Local offices, such as the one in Atlanta, were quite quick to help me out.  The major recruiting efforts for the 2010 Census don’t take place until later this fall, so we’ll just have to wait and see what involvement ACORN has in this process.

Next Year’s Census Count Promises to Rejigger Political Map

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Here’s an interesting forecast on redistricting as a result of the 2010 Census from the Wall Street Journal (click HERE for the full piece):

By Stephanie Simon

The federal government has hired tens of thousands of temporary workers to prepare for the 2010 Census — a population count that could remake the political map even as the foreclosure crisis makes it more difficult to account for millions of dislocated Americans.

Early analysis indicates that Texas will likely be the biggest winner since the prior count a decade ago, picking up three or four seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures and Election Data Services Inc., a political-consulting firm. Other states poised to gain at least one seat include Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Florida and Utah.

Growth in these states is driven by factors including migration from other states, immigration and birth rates. The economic crisis has put the brakes on some of this expansion — Florida just reported its first year-over-year population decline since 1946 — but in general, Sun Belt states have grown faster than others over the past decade.

Since the number of seats in the House is capped at 435, the gains in the South and West have to be offset by losses elsewhere.

New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts and the recession-battered industrial states of Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania each stand to lose a House seat. So does Louisiana, where the population still hasn’t rebounded from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which displaced so many residents that census takers face a difficult task in tallying them all.

A state’s votes in the presidential Electoral College depend on the size of its congressional delegation, so the census will likely tilt the balance of power slightly, with reliably Republican “red states” gaining several votes while Democratic strongholds such as New England lose clout.

[Balance of Power chart]

The effect in Congress is less clear, said Karl Eschbach, the Texas state demographer. Texas, for instance, is solidly red when it comes to presidential elections. But Democrats have begun to make inroads in the state Legislature, buoyed by a flow of newcomers from more-liberal states such as California. So political analysts believe one or more of Texas’s new seats in Congress may well translate into a Democratic pickup.

Is ACORN recruiting for the 2010 Census? The GOP thinks so!

Monday, August 10th, 2009

The GOP wants some questions answered from the man at the top, Robert M. Groves:

McHenry: Is ACORN recruiting census workers or not?
Internal documents at odds with Bureau’s claims to Congress

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Patrick McHenry, Ranking Member on the Census Oversight Subcommittee sent a letter to the U.S. Census Bureau concerning its partnership with ACORN.

While the Bureau has reported to Congress that ACORN is not recruiting census workers, internal documents contradict this claim.

Assuming the Bureau can reconcile these contradictions and verify that ACORN has been instructed not to recruit census workers, Congressman McHenry asked, “If ACORN has been singled out in such a manner because of its long criminal history, it begs the question, why are they a national partner in the first place?  If they cannot be trusted to recruit enumerators, it would seem to me that ACORN should be disqualified as a partner altogether.”

Dr. Robert M. Groves
Director
U.S. Census Bureau
4600 Silver Hill Road
Suitland, MD 20746

Dear Dr. Groves:

On July 10, 2009, Acting Director Thomas Mesenbourg wrote a letter to Congress clarifying the partnership role of the political advocacy group ACORN, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.  Mr. Mesenbourg stated definitively that ACORN “will not be involved in recruiting or hiring census employees.”[1] However, information has come to my attention that requires further clarification from the Bureau.

Documents from the Bureau obtained by Judicial Watch contradict Mr. Mesenbourg’s letter to Congress.  One such document details the organization’s partnership responsibilities, including “Identify job candidates and/or distribute and display recruiting materials.”  Bearing his signature from February 12, 2009, this form indicates that Mr. Mesenbourg approved ACORN’s role as a recruiter of census enumerators.[2]

Furthermore, promotional materials for the national partnership program indicate very clearly that partners will play a role in recruiting enumerators.[3]

A) How do you reconcile this evidence with Mr. Mesenbourg’s letter to Congress?

B) If ACORN has been instructed specifically not to recruit enumerators, please provide
the dated correspondence between the Bureau and ACORN that verifies this.

C) Additionally, please provide a list of other national partners that have been instructed
not to recruit enumerators.

D) If ACORN has been singled out in such a manner because of its long criminal history,
it begs the question, why are they a national partner in the first place?  If they cannot
be trusted to recruit enumerators, it would seem to me that ACORN should be
disqualified as a partner altogether.

In a document provided to Congress, the Bureau states that partnering organizations would be disqualified if they “could distract from the Census Bureau’s mission.”[4] An internal document from the Bureau states that groups will be disqualified if they “might make people fearful of participating in the Census.”[5]

E) How does the criminal background of ACORN reflect positively on the Census
Bureau’s mission?

F) As a criminal enterprise, how could ACORN in no way distract from the Bureau’s
mission?

Please submit written responses to the questions above to the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives by August 24, 2009.  Should you have any questions or need any additional information, please contact Alexis Rudakewych at (202) 225-2576.

Sincerely,

Patrick T. McHenry
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Information Policy,
Census, and National Archives

[1]  See Bureau letter to Mr. McHenry (July 20, 2009)
[2]  See Bureau partnership form (February 12, 2009)
[3]  See Bureau Form D-3207, Become a 2010 Census Partner, (April 2008)
[4]  See 2010 Census Partnership Program, Partner Selection Process and Guidelines, page 2
[5]  See Email, Barbara A. Harris, (March 17, 2009)

Long and boring 2010 Census hearing…

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Click HERE to watch a long and boring Congressional hearing (from July 21st) chaired by Carolyn Maloney and featuring testimony from many former directors of the Census Bureau.

Congratulations and Praise for Robert M. Groves from Democrats and Republicans

Monday, July 13th, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 13, 2009

CONTACT: Bette Phelan (202) 224-2441

*** RADIO AND TV SATELLITE FEED TOMORROW ***

CARPER APPLAUDS CONFIRMATION OF CENSUS DIRECTOR GROVES

Sen. Tom Carper Encouraged Colleagues to Give Up Holds and Vote on Nomination

WASHINGTON (July 13, 2009) – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) today applauded the confirmation of Dr. Robert Groves as director of the United States Census Bureau.

As chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security, Sen. Carper has been a key player in conducting Dr. Groves’ confirmation hearing, and in encouraging his colleagues to allow for his final confirmation vote today.

“Finally, less than six months before the first surveys go out nationwide for the decennial census, the Census Bureau will have the kind of leadership it needs in the form of newly confirmed director Dr. Groves,” said Sen. Carper. “I encourage Dr. Groves to get right to work, and I know that under his leadership we can address the serious challenges that could jeopardize the success and cost-effectiveness of the 2010 Census.”

At Dr. Groves’ confirmation hearing in May, as well as chairing several other hearings on progress of the 2010 Census, on the Senate floor today, Sen. Carper has stressed the importance of having an accurate, efficient and cost-effective count in 2010.

The results of the 2010 Census will affect everything from the apportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to the allocation of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal assistance to state and local governments.

The cost of the 2010 Census has escalated to an estimated $14 billion, making it the most expensive census in history, by far. It will cost the nation an estimated $100 to count each household in 2010, compared to $56 in 2000 and $13 in 1970.

*** RADIO AND TV SATELLITE FEED TOMORROW ***

Sen. Carper speaks on the floor late Monday evening about Dr. Robert Groves’ confirmation.

C-BAND DIGITAL SATELLITE FEED:

TOMORROW, WEDNESDAY, July 14, 2009 at 10:00am - 10:05am EDT

Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Brock McCleary
July 13, 2009 Phone: (202) 225-2576

McHenry Congratulates Groves on Confirmation as Census Director

WASHINGTON – Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC-10), Ranking Member on the House Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives, released the following statement in response to the confirmation of Dr. Robert Groves as Director of the U.S. Census Bureau.

“I congratulate Dr. Groves on his confirmation as our next Census Director.  Because of his past support of manipulating census results, Dr. Groves would not have been my first choice for the position.  However, having ruled out the use of statistical adjustment, I believe Dr. Groves is well positioned and well qualified to lead an accurate and successful 2010 Decennial.  I look forward to working with Dr. Groves to ensure that Congress meets its obligations to provide vigorous and constructive oversight of the Bureau’s operations.”

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Update: ROBERT M. GROVES HAS BEEN CONFIRMED

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Just minutes ago, the U.S. Senate confirmed Robert M. Groves as Director of the U.S. Census Bureau. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) voted against the confirmation, but we’re waiting on additional information to see how widespread the support for Groves was.

Update: Press Release from Sen. David Vitter’s Office

Monday, July 13th, 2009

SenatorVitter

For Immediate Release Contact: Joel DiGrado

July 13, 2009                                                               (202) 224-4623

Vitter Issues Statement on Groves Confirmation Vote

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Sen. David Vitter issued the following statement following Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s move to override Vitter’s hold on the nomination of Robert Groves to be the next U.S. Census Director.

“I have some serious concerns with Mr. Groves’ confirmation to be Census Director, and that’s why I placed a hold on his nomination.  Specifically, I wanted some written assurances from President Obama and his administration that sampling would not be used in the census taking process and that ACORN will have nothing to do with the census.  I’ve been trying to have a dialogue with the White House to help me address those two concerns, but they were unwilling to make those commitments,” said Vitter.

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FYI: Groves’ Senate vote at 5:30pm EST this evening

Monday, July 13th, 2009

MyTwoCensus just received word that Census Director-To-Be Robert M. Groves’ Senate confirmation vote is tentatively scheduled for 5:30pm EST this evening. Clearly this is dependent on Sonia Sotomayor’s hearing ending on time (it starts at 10am)…stay tuned for updates!