Prepare to be counted.
Every household in America soon will be contacted by the U.S. Census Bureau as part of the 2010 Census. The goal is to count all 310 million Americans, or whatever the number is these days. (That’s kind of the point.)
As you prepare to be tallied, here’s some information to know.
• Nearly every household in Douglas County should expect to receive a questionnaire from the Census Bureau between March 15 and March 17. Expect to receive the questionnaire via the U.S. Postal Service in an envelope clearly labeled Census. Don’t throw it away.
• If you do throw it away — or don’t fill it out and mail it back — a worker from the U.S. Census Bureau — they’ll have I.D. badges to show you — will come knocking on your door after May 1 to ask you to fill out the form. For every 1 percent of Americans who don’t send in the form, and thus require the knock on the door, it costs the Census Bureau an additional $85 million, said Rich Gerdes, assistant regional Census manager.
• Everybody will receive the same form, and it is short. Each household is asked 10 basic demographic questions such as age, race and gender. The traditional “long form,” which asks about everything from how much you make to how many miles you drive to work, is now handled through a different process. Gerdes estimates it should take people about 10 minutes to fill out the new Census form.
• A self-addressed stamped envelope should be included with the packet you receive in the mail. If you lose the form, go to Census.gov to find a local location that has forms to distribute.
• Don’t spend your time looking for a Web site that lets you fill out the information online. Doesn’t exist. The Census is a paper operation. “We’ve looked into Web options, but there are just security issues we have with that,” Gerdes said.
• University students should fill out the form. Despite what you think you may know, Kansas University students really are supposed to be counted as part of Lawrence’s population.
• People who have more than one home — like students sometimes do — are supposed to fill out the form for the address where they reside the majority of the year.
• The Census aims to count all residents. Whether a person is a U.S. citizen, an illegal alien or here on a work visa, the Census wants to count them as part of the country’s population.
• All information obtained is confidential. Gerdes said federal law bars the Census from sharing individual information with other government agencies or anyone else. Even law enforcement agents are unable to obtain the information via warrant.
• A favorite Census Bureau story: During the Truman administration, the Secret Service sought information about people who lived near the president. The Census Bureau refused to release information. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Census Bureau won.