Census forms expected to arrive this week

Published 9:25 am Monday, March 15, 2010

The 2010 U.S. Census questionnaires are expected to arrive in mailboxes across the country this week. State and local officials are encouraging area residents to complete the form and mail it back in.

People who do not have a mailbox at their home — who pick up their mail at the post office — will have their form hand-delivered.

Required by the U.S. Constitution, a census is conducted every 10 years.

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It determines representation in Congress and is also used to allocate federal and state funding and to redraw state legislative boundaries.

“The sooner to get them back, the better,” said Martha McMurry, research analyst with the Minnesota State Demographic Center.

McMurry said while there is not a fast deadline for when the forms should be returned like with taxes, she encouraged people not to procrastinate.

If people don’t turn them in, the Census Bureau starts sending out enumerators.

The more times that has to be done, the more expensive it is, she said.

McMurry said the goal of the census is to count all residents of the United States — this includes immigrants and people in prison.

March: Census questionnaires are mailed or delivered to households.

March through April: Be Counted program is implemented. Census questionnaires are available at select public sites for people who did not receive one by mail.

April 1: Census Day

May through July: Census takers visit households that did not return a questionnaire by mail.

Dec. 31: The Census Bureau delivers population counts to the president.

March 2011: The Census Bureau completes delivery of redistricting data to states.

The form asks four general questions about every household, such as whether they rent their own home, and then six questions about each person within the household, including name, sex, age, date of birth and race.

The head of household should complete the form on behalf of every person living in the residence, including relatives and nonrelatives. The form should take about 10 minutes to fill out, depending on the number of people in the home.

Participation in the 2010 Census is required by law.

McMurry said the information is confidential, and by law the Census Bureau cannot share a person’s census responses with anyone, including other federal agencies and law enforcement agencies.

Language assistance guides are available in 59 languages, and questionnaire assistance centers will also assist those unable to read or understand the form. There will also be a program to help people with hearing disabilities.

McMurry said according to the most recent Census estimates that came out in 2009, Minnesota is in the position of losing a Congressional seat by only a few thousand people.

“It could be the estimate is wrong, but it’s clear that we’re on the cusp of losing a seat,” she said.

According to the 2010 Census Web site, Albert Lea had an 85 percent participation rate during the 2000 Census, compared to a national participation rate of 72 percent and state participation rate of 78 percent.

The official 2010 Census Web site can be found at www.2010census.gov.