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.

Posts Tagged ‘Maryland’

An update on 2010 Census operations…

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Carol Morello of The Washington Post, writes the following in her article about Maryland residents who weren’t counted (yet):

Since May 1, census takers have knocked on the doors of more than 47 million homes, virtually all the addresses for which nobody returned a form. They found 14.3 million vacant residences, up from 9.9 million in the 2000 Census — a reflection of the heavy toll the recession and foreclosures have taken on the nation.

As the census winds down, more than three-quarters of the 635,000 temporary workers hired for it have been dismissed. The remaining 125,000 will be checking the work that has been done.

In Focus: How your $timulus package money is being $pent by the Cen$u$ Bureau

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

H/t to Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporting outlet Pro Publica for sharing the following data with us. Here are some screen captures that depict how your taxpayer dollars are being spent (…interestingly, Census Bureau Communications Director Steve Jost’s former boss Carolyn Maloney represents New York City and the areas where $125,000,000 in stimulus money is headed in communications contracts!). The amount of money being spent on partnership support is particularly disturbing as I have received multiple reports of partnership materials being DISCARDED by the palette!

Maryland enacts law to count incarcerated people at their home addresses

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

The following comes from PrisonersOfTheCensus.org:

April 13, 2010 – Today, Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law a bill ensuring that incarcerated persons will be counted as residents of their home addresses when new state and local legislative districts are drawn in Maryland.

The U.S. Census counts incarcerated people as residents of the prison location. When state and local government bodies use Census counts to draw legislative districts, they unintentionally enhance the weight of a vote cast in districts that contain prisons at the expense of all other districts in the state. Maryland is the first state to pledge to collect the home addresses of incarcerated people and correct the data state-wide.

The new law will help Maryland correct past distortions in representation caused by counting incarcerated persons as residents of prisons, such as the following:

  • 18% of the population currently credited to House of Delegates District 2B (near Hagerstown) is actually incarcerated people from other parts of the state. In effect, by using uncorrected Census data to draw legislative districts, the legislature granted every group of 82 residents in this districts as much political influence as 100 residents of every other district.
  • In Somerset County, a large prison is 64% of the 1st County Commission District, giving each resident in that district 2.7 times as much influence as residents in other districts. Even more troubling is that by including the prison population as “residents” in county districts, the county has been unable to draw an effective majority-African American district and has had no African-American elected to county government, despite settlement of a vote dilution lawsuit in the 1980s.

The problem is national as well. One legislative district in New York includes 7% prisoners; a legislative district in Texas includes 12% prisoners; and 15% of one Montana district are prisoners imported from other parts of the state. Indeed, the 2010 Census will find five times as many people in prison as it did just three decades ago. To address this problem, eight other states have similar bills pending in the current session or being prepared for reintroduction in the next legislative session: Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

“The Maryland legislature has taken a much-needed step to ensure fairness in redistricting and reflect incarcerated populations in a more accurate way. Maryland’s action should pave the way for other states to end the distortions caused by counting incarcerated persons in the wrong place,” said Peter Wagner, Executive Director of the Prison Policy Initiative.

“Maryland’s ‘No Representation without Population’ Act will bring the state’s redistricting practices in line with the rules Maryland uses for determining legal residence of incarcerated persons for other purposes. We applaud this common-sense solution to a growing problem of fairness in representation,” said Brenda Wright, Director of the Democracy Program at Demos.

The legislation, passed as H.B. 496 and S.B.400, applies only to redistricting and would not affect federal funding distributions.

The Prison Policy Initiative and Demos have a national project to end prison-based gerrymandering, seeking to change how the U.S. Census counts incarcerated people and how states and local governments use prison counts when drawing districts. The two groups provided technical assistance to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland and the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland who led this effort.

In addition, Mr. Wagner and Ms. Wright both testified in support of Maryland’s new law at legislative hearings this spring. Their testimony pointed out that HB496/SB400 has precedent in the practice of more than 100 rural counties around the country that currently revise the Census Bureau’s prison counts for internal districting purposes, and in the laws of states such as Kansas that adjust the Census for other purposes.

PPI and Demos long have advocated for the Census Bureau to change its practices so that incarcerated persons would be counted at their home residences on a nationwide basis. While it is too late for that change to be made for the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau’s recent decision to accelerate the release of its prison count data so that states can more readily identify prison populations in the Census will be helpful to states such as Maryland that wish to make their own adjustments.

PPI and Demos applaud the lead sponsors of the legislation, Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk and Senator Catherine Pugh, who deserve special credit for their leadership on this issue. Although both represent legislative districts that contain large prison populations currently counted as part of their districts, both recognized that the issue of fairness and accuracy in statewide redistricting should take precedence over individual concerns. PPI and Demos are also encouraged by the bi-partisan support for the bill including that of Republican Senators J. Lowell Stoltzfus and Donald F. Munson.

Two interesting articles from Maryland and Texas about prisoners and the 2010 Census…

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

From the Herald-Mail in Maryland:

Bill would alter inmate count for Census

By ERIN JULIUS

ANNAPOLIS — Washington County might lose about 6,000 people from its legislative and congressional districts because of a bill that has been passed by both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly.

The bill excludes state inmates who were not state residents before their incarceration, and requires that prisoners be counted as residents of their last known address before prison.

About 6,000 prisoners are housed in the three state prisons south of Hagerstown, a prison spokesman said Friday.

Local jail populations are not included in the bill.

All but one of Washington County’s eight local lawmakers voted against the measure.

The change in how to count the population will be relevant in creating legislative districts for the U.S. Congress, Maryland General Assembly, and county and municipal governing bodies, according to the bill.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, called the bill “a blatant power grab by, predominantly, the Baltimore City delegation.” Changing how prisoners are counted will benefit the Baltimore City and Prince George’s County delegations because most of the prisoners in the state prison system are from the more urban areas of the state.

Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, also expressed concerns. Two areas Edwards represents — Washington and Allegany counties — would be affected.

About 3,000 state prisoners are held in two facilities near Cumberland, a prison spokesman said.

Another 1,503 prisoners are held by the Bureau of Prisons at a federal facility in Cumberland, according to a fiscal note prepared by the Department of Legislative Services that was attached to the bill.

After the 2000 census, the ideal population for a General Assembly district — with a plus or minus 5 percent margin of error — is 112,691. The ideal congressional district size is 662,061.

The state legislative districts are expected to increase to about 120,000 following the 2010 census, and the congressional districts are expected to grow to about 722,425, according to the fiscal note.

Edwards believes the change in population counts — taking 4,000 people out of Allegany County’s population — could push the outlines of his district, District 1, further east into Washington County because Garrett and Allegany counties are not growing, Edwards said.

However, it’s tough to judge what will happen without the numbers, and with a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent, things might stay as they are, he said.

It’s unfair, however, because having prison facilities in its midst puts pressure on a community’s public services, Edwards said. (more…)

Press Release: Lockheed Martin Team Prepared for Peak U.S. Census Data Capture Production

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Here’s a press release update from our friends at Lockheed Martin:

ROCKVILLE, Md., April 1, /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ —  With the U.S. Census now underway, Lockheed Martin’s (NYSE: LMT) Decennial Response Integration System (DRIS) team is receiving up to 12 million census forms daily, processing as many as 2.5 million forms every 24 hours and answering more than 56,000 telephone inquiries per hour during peak production expected between the end of March and April 2010.

The DRIS contract was awarded in September 2005 to the Lockheed Martin team, which includes major partners and a large small business component. The DRIS team is responsible for the people, process, technology and infrastructure needed to receive, capture and standardize data from potentially more than 300 million U.S. residents as well as provide telephone assistance to support data capture efforts.

The Lockheed Martin-lead team hired and trained more than 13,000 temporary personnel, conducted intense testing and dress rehearsals and primed itself for one of the largest and most sophisticated data capture jobs in the country.

“Based on our experience with the 2000 Census, we partnered with the U.S. Census Bureau and the nation’s top companies to develop a solution that embraces information technology and automation to accurately, efficiently, securely and quickly count the nation’s growing and changing population,” said Julie Dunlap, director of Lockheed Martin’s Census Practice and program manager for the 2010 Census DRIS. “During exhaustive planning and testing, the system and associated employees and processes performed flawlessly and fully confirm the team’s readiness,” added Dunlap.

Three data capture centers support this massive effort to process all Census forms within a 6-month period. Centers in Baltimore, Md., managed by CSC, and Phoenix, Ariz. managed by Vangent, Inc., are bigger than four football fields put together. The third center is located at the Census Bureau’s National Processing Center in Jeffersonville, Ind.

In addition, the team established 11 call centers managed by IBM and Vangent across the country to answer respondents’ questions and to follow up to ensure no one is missed. “Between now and August, there will be an estimated 6.6 million inbound and 8.1 million outbound calls to ensure we are obtaining the most accurate data from respondents,” said Dunlap.

The results of the 2010 U.S. Census are due to the President in December 2010 as mandated by U.S. law.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security company that employs about 140,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation reported 2009 sales of $45.2 billion.

The Suitland Files: Inside The Census Bureau (Part 1)

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

This post is dedicated to the memory Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. The other night, I caught Alex Gibney’s biographical documentary Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson, and I was once again reminded how exciting political journalism can be, especially when it’s written in the first person. So, here is the first of two installments detailing my trip to the U.S. Census Bureau Headquarters in Suitland, Maryland, written in a style that I hope would make Dr. Thompson smile:

President Obama must have sensed that I had a whole lot of questions for him, because just as soon as I arrived for my tour of the White House, Marine One arrived to whisk him off to Andrews Air Force Base for a trip to Boston. Nonetheless, after five months in other parts of the world, it was good to be back in the District, which was just as vibrant as when I left it in May.

After a post-White House pit stop at Potbelly Sandwich Works, I jumped on the red line at Metro Center for a minute before changing at Chinatown to the green line that would coast me all the way out to Suitland, Maryland, home of the U.S. Census Bureau’s  HQ. It’s a long and lonely ride out to Suitland, as it’s just about as far as the Metro can take you from any of DC’s attractions. Once the Metro stopped at Anacostia I couldn’t help but be wary, knowing that I was in the highest-crime district in an already high-crime city.

When I exited the Metro at Suitland, I noticed that my fellow riders (no less than three individuals walking with painful limps, a pair of girls who looked to be no more than seventeen –each with a baby in their arms, and a blind man who lacked a cane and got from point A to point B by only by sticking his hands out to guide him –which seems to be a death wish in the vicinity of active train tracks) all seemed depressed. And watching them made me depressed, so I scrambled onward. I walked through an endless parking garage, the whole time during which I was convinced that Deep Throat would sneak up on me from behind. When I finally made my way to its entrance, there she stood, looking completely out of place, like a princess at a soup kitchen, the glass-paneled behemoth that was completed in 2006 and holds unquantifiable amounts of data. When Census employees click their heels together three times and say “There’s no place like home,” this is where they land.

I’d been told to arrive early for my meeting, because after all, I was meeting with some very high-level bureaucrats, and they had, you know, things to do. But I still had forty minutes, which was too early, so I figured I’d take a lap around the building to kill some time. Just as I walked to the edge of the building’s iron-gated perimeter, I peered through the main entrance and saw a familiar face, or should I say a familiar pair of spectacles and a familiar gray mustache. “No way, it can’t be,” I thought to myself. But it was. I knew it in an instant. My heart started to pound. I could feel the sweat dripping down my neck. I wanted to loosen my tie but I suddenly was no longer in control of my hands, which were now involuntarily shaking. Of the thousands upon thousands of employees of the U.S. Census Bureau who are based at headquarters in Suitland, here I was, standing beside the top dog, the king of the castle, the questionnaire czar, the big kahuna, el estadistico grande, the Don Juan of Censusland…it was none other than Dr. Robert M. Groves himself.

Still in a trance, I strode right past the security guards (who were obviously doing a great job keeping the place safe and secure) and shouted “Dr. Groves!” with the enthusiasm of a kid who was about to get his baseball signed by Babe Ruth. (I mean, Census bloggers need heroes too.) Groves stopped dead in his tracks and stared me down. He had the look of a man who’d just been caught by TMZ with his pants down, but it was really just the inquisitive ambivalence of responding to someone who shouts your name as if you’re old friends when in reality you’re hardly even acquaintances.

Surely he didn’t recognize me, as I was sporting a mustache and glasses myself, two accessories I lacked during our only other encounter, which was at his confirmation hearing back in May (The ‘stache and specs were just a coincidence, not an elaborate homage, I swear!). During my first brush with Census royalty, Groves, all but assured of his Senate confirmation said to me, “You should come by Suitland some time soon and I’ll give you a personal tour.” I told him right then and there that I would take him up on his offer and hold him to his word.

As i was still crippled with fear and verbally paralyzed, Groves said to me, “Ah, I wanted to come to your meeting, but I was called to go somewhere at the last second.” You would think that I would be utterly dejected by this, but this wasn’t the case at all, as I had no idea that Dr. Groves was even considering a meeting with me, so this was much more than I’d bargained for. Still overjoyed, all I could think was,  ”Damnit, why didn’t I bring my camera?”

Not knowing what to do as the power of speech suddenly returned to my body, I asked him for his business card. He fumbled around his wallet for a few seconds and told me he was out. Ostensibly he doesn’t want to be on my speed dial, so he played it safe with a solid excuse. That, I can totally understand. (I wouldn’t want me on speed dial either.) Clearly in a rush (his driver was waiting for him), Groves parted with me by saying, “You’re doing a good job.” As I blurted out a terse “thank you, ” he was already on his way.

Still in a relative daze, I only floated back to the real world only when I felt the heavy hand of a security guard on my shoulder. Even if the rest of my Census Bureau HQ experience went to shit, at least I had the approval of the one person who mattered most in Suitland’s Glassy-Glowing-God-like Monolith.

MyTwoCensus Investigation Part 2: The Smoking Gun Audio Files

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

After MyTwoCensus investigators were tipped off about the lax hiring procedures at the nation’s three data capture centers, we decided to call some of the people involved in the hiring process to verify that it was still okay to be hired to work at one of these centers  (that process significant amounts of private/sensitive information) if one had misdemeanor convictions, drug problems, and was awaiting the outcome of a felony charge…The answer: Despite these issues, you’re good to be hired!

On the following call from Baltimore, we intentionally blocked out our operative’s voice to shield his identity. On the line you will here Tiera Dorsey, an employee of Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon’s office who is responsible for helping people to find jobs. Let’s go to the audio recording:

Baltimore Recording

TRANSCRIPT:

Tiera Dorsey: Miss Dorsey.

TD: Okay, who am I speaking with, sir?

TD: Okay, are you talking about working at the Census or working at the Baltimore Data Capture Center?

TD: Okay, you need to go to their web site. You ready? J-O-B-S-T-H-A-T-C-O-U-N-T-dot-O-R-G.

TD: Oh, they don’t drug test there. There they don’t. The Baltimore Data Capture don’t drug test.

TD: They go case by case with misdemeanors.

TD: Ohhhhh, I do know that when they did the presentation here they said felonies, their not going to hire people with felonies, but if you wasn’t convicted then it shouldn’t come up right?

TD: Okay. Because I’m not the employer. Bye.

MyTwoCensus Investigation Part 1: Security Concerns At Data Processing Centers

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Background: The United States Census Bureau will be operating three data capture centers to process the information collected from the approximately 300 million Americans who will be counted in the 2010 Census. These data capture centers are located in Baltimore (Maryland), Jeffersonville (Indiana), and Phoenix (Arizona).

After speaking with human resources professionals who have significant knowledge of US government and subcontractor practices, MyTwoCensus is concerned that the screening processes for people who will have access to highly sensitive information is inadequate.

Here are the criteria for employment at the Baltimore data capture center, which is ostensibly similar to the procedures at the other facilities as well:

Job Title: SCA General Clerk I – Paper Data Processing
City: Essex
State/Province: Maryland
Post Type: Full-Time/Part-Time
Requirements: There are basic requirements for BDCC employment which include:

• U.S. citizenship with documentation or Permanent Residency status (requires valid documentation from the past 2 years authorizing employment)
• 18 years of age or older
• High school diploma or GED
• English literacy
• No felony convictions
• Submission of personal information and fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for a suitability assessment. All applicants are required to meet Department of Commerce suitability requirements before employment.

MyTwoCensus is extremely concerned that mandatory drug tests are not part of the criteria for these positions because of the access to sensitive material that will inevitably come with the job. We are also concerned that the lax “no felony convictions” clause means that people who have been accused of felonies but have plead guilty to misdemeanors will likely be working in these facilities. In Maryland, the following crimes are considered misdemeanors:

  • Driving with a Revoked License
  • Reckless Driving
  • Petty theft
  • Prostitution
  • Public drunkenness
  • Resisting arrest
  • Failure to appear in court
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Trespassing
  • Vandalism

With so many Americans who have no criminal records currently unemployed, it is even more ludicrous that the standards for these positions are so low.

Another major loophole is that recruiters are trying to fill these positions now (September and October), but the jobs won’t actually begin until the spring (after Census Day – April 1, 2010). This means that during the next 6 months, people who pass background checks may surely be involved in criminal activities, but because of the time lag, their employers will likely never be aware of the situation.

It should be noted that the “Baltimore Data Capture Center will be managed by Lockheed Martin. Its subcontractor partner, CSC (Computer Sciences Corporation), will manage the hiring efforts for the 2,500 new employees, most of whom will be hired starting in December of this year.”

The ACORN Investigations Continue…

Friday, September 11th, 2009

We hate to keep beating this story to a bloody pulp, this is yet another day where ACORN has been featured prominently in the news for its wrongdoings. When I woke up this morning, the following story was the #1 headline on CNN.com:

(CNN) — Two employees at the Baltimore, Maryland, branch of the liberal community organizing group ACORN were caught on tape allegedly offering advice to a pair posing as a pimp and prostitute on setting up a prostitution ring and evading the IRS.

The footage, which appears to have been edited in places, was recorded and posted online Thursday.

The footage, which appears to have been edited in places, was recorded and posted online Thursday.

The video footage — which has been edited and goes to black in some areas — was recorded and and posted online Thursday by James O’Keefe, a conservative activist. He was joined on the video by another conservative, Hannah Giles, who posed as the prostitute in the filmmakers’ undercover sting.

The video shows the pair approaching two women working at the ACORN Baltimore office and asking them for advice on how to set up a prostitution ring involving more than a dozen underage girls from El Salvador.

One of the ACORN workers suggests that Giles refer to herself as a “performing artist” on tax forms and declare some of the girls as dependents to receive child tax credits.

“Stop saying prostitution,” the woman, identified by the filmmaker as an ACORN tax expert, tells Giles. The other woman tells them, “You want to keep them clean … make sure they go to school.” Video Watch tape of alleged advice on prostitution »

Both women appear enthusiastic to help.

Calls to ACORN’s Baltimore offices were not immediately returned Thursday. A local spokeswoman told The Associated Press that both employees seen in the video were fired.

“The portrayal is false and defamatory and an attempt at ‘gotcha journalism,’ ” said Scott Levenson, a spokesman at ACORN’s national offices. “This film crew tried to pull this sham at other offices and failed. ACORN wants to see the full video before commenting further.”

The conservative filmmakers unsuccessfully attempted similar ruses at the group’s offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Los Angeles, California, and New York, Levenson said.

Law enforcement officials in the Baltimore area wouldn’t confirm whether they are investigating the alleged incident at the local ACORN office. However, authorities said that under Maryland law, such undercover video may not be admissible in court as evidence.

CNN attempted to reach O’Keefe and Giles; O’Keefe was not available for comment and Giles canceled an interview scheduled for Thursday.

ACORN — an acronym for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — made headlines last year when Republican groups seized on allegations of voter registration fraud by the group in Florida and several other states, claiming its workers were trying to push the election in Barack Obama’s favor.

On Wednesday, arrest warrants were issued for 11 Florida voter registration workers suspected of submitting false information on hundreds of voter registration cards, according to court documents. The Florida investigation was triggered by ACORN officials who noticed irregularities in forms they were receiving.

Census Bureau Opens New Facility In Baltimore

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

The following is a press release I received today from the Census Bureau:

Census Bureau Opens Data Processing Center in Maryland

New 2010 Census facility will create thousands of area jobs

The U.S. Census Bureau today opened one of three data capture centers
that will process the 2010 Census questionnaires as they are mailed back by
households across the nation. The 236,500-square-foot facility will bring
more than 2,500 jobs to Baltimore County, Md.

“Processing the 2010 Census questionnaires accurately and safely at the
data capture centers is a crucial step to a successful census,” said Census
Bureau Acting Director Tom Mesenbourg.  “The data from each form processed
at the facility will help provide a complete count of the nation’s
population and a new portrait of America.”

The Baltimore Data Capture Center is expected to process about 40
percent of the census forms mailed back by respondents. The remaining forms
will be sent to the Census Bureau’s National Processing Center in
Jeffersonville, Ind., and the data capture center in Phoenix, which is set
to open in November. The 2010 Census forms will be mailed in March, and the
majority of the data processing will occur between March and July.

The Baltimore Data Capture Center will be managed by Lockheed Martin.
Its subcontractor partner, CSC, will manage the hiring efforts for the
2,500 new employees, most of whom will be hired starting in December of
this year. Each worker will take an oath for life to keep census
information confidential. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share
respondents’ answers with any other government or law enforcement agency.
Any violation of that oath is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and
five years in prison.

The 2010 Census is a count of everyone living in the United States and
is mandated by the U.S. Constitution. Census data are used to distribute
congressional seats to states and to allocate more than $300 billion in
federal funds to local, state and tribal governments each year. The 2010
Census questionnaire will be one of the shortest in history, consisting of
10 questions and taking about 10 minutes to complete.