ATLANTA--Complaints About Census Problems Adding Up : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


Complaints about census problems beginning to add up

Rhonda Cook - Staff Friday, March 17, 2000

Glitches with census forms and phone lines are causing confusion for some metro Atlantans.

"This is weird," said Marlene Elkins of Marietta. "I got two forms. . . . This is supposed to be an accurate count? They can't even get this right."

U.S. Bureau of the Census officials in Atlanta and Washington admit there have been some problems as the 2000 count begins.

"People should not lose their confidence" in the accuracy of the census, said Paul Wyatt, a spokesman with the bureau in Washington.

"These things should be put into perspective," he said. "These are not things that are widespread as far as we know. And they are correctable."

In 1990, the census missed 1.6 percent of the nation's people and 2.2 percent in Georgia --- more than 142,500 people. Heavy emphasis has been placed this year on getting an accurate count.

Results determine where political boundaries are drawn, how many representatives each state has in Congress, as well as how federal money for transportation, education, social service programs and community block grants is distributed.

Several problems have popped up. Some residents, including Elkins, received more than one form.

There was an extra digit (the number 1) at the beginning of addresses on letters sent about two weeks ago announcing that census forms would be mailed soon.

Those announcement letters also included a return envelope, but no explanation for it in English. The explanation for the envelope, to send for a form in another language, was on the back of the letter and in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog and Vietnamese.

Some people have received cards thanking them for returning their census questionnaires, even though they had yet to receive the forms.

Others are finding it time-consuming and cumbersome to call the bureau's 800-471-9424 helpline. Often, the line rings many times before it is picked up and by someone who may or may not know the answer to the question.

Elkins said she had called the number to find out what to do with the second census form, especially since she already had returned the first one.

"I went through menu after menu after menu and then it rang and rang and then he (the operator taking the call) had to look (the answer) up," she said. "They weren't the least bit alarmed I got two. Talk about a black hole."

The census is the nation's second largest undertaking, ranking only behind mobilization for a full-scale war. It will cost about $6.5 billion and will employ about 500,000 workers, most of them temporary employees, at its peak between the end of April and the first week of July. "The downside is, and what is very upsetting is, it does in some way lower the faith some people have in the process," Linda Meggars, director of the state's congressional and legislative reapportionment office, said of the glitches. "It shouldn't. They need to keep in mind how big this process is."

ON THE WEB: Census 2000 has experienced a few glitches::

AJC Newspaper Online brought to you in partnership with AccessAtlanta ) 2000 Cox Interactive Media

-- (, March 17, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ