The 2010 Census–a political tool

Besides being used for re-apportioning seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, the federal government uses census counts to distribute more than $300 million each year to state, local and tribal governments. Every person in this country is a walking price tag for their community, by the sheer numbers making up the community they can bring in revenue for everything from public education to infrastructure development.

Training of the 2,050 census workers that will be necessary to gather the data has begun in Oregon. Amid concerns about an undercount of immigrants and ethnic minorities, the Bureau earlier this year partnered with translators and ethnic media “” newspapers, TV, radio and Internet “” in Oregon and other states, to help address fears and suspicions that could discourage some people from participating in the 2010 Census. To assist in accurate representation of these groups canvassers in Oregon will include Vietnamese, Russian, Chinese, Indonesian, Marshallese, Tagalog and Spanish translators. (“Census Groundwork Begins in Oregon”, 4-6-09, Statesman Journal)

Even though the Census is an important political tool, it is supposed to be free of politics. Some question how that can be with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) participating in this year’s count. Having a history of voter fraud, their involvement is raising concerns. As recently as 2007, Washington State filed felony charges against several paid ACORN employees and supervisors for more than 1,700 fraudulent voter registrations. The group’s activities were frequently questioned in the 2008 presidential election.
Members of the U.S. House census subcommittee has held hearings to make sure the penalties for census takers committing fraud are clearly defined and hope the Census Bureau will maintain its measures to ensure an accurate report. Presently, the penalty for any fraudulent activity can be up to five years in jail.

The U.S. Census Bureau has refuted any suggestions that ACORN or any other groups will fraudulently and unduly influence the results of the census. “The Census (Bureau) is a nonpartisan, non-political agency and we’re very dedicated to an accurate account,” bureau spokesman Stephen Buckner told “We have a lot of quality controls in place to keep any kind of systemic error or fraudulent behavior to affect the counts.”

Buckner said each applicantmust take a basic skills exam, which includes reading a map and entering data into a handheld computer. Applicants are also subject to an FBI background check, he said…but Buckner acknowledged that the bureau has no way of tracking an applicant’s political background.

So, what are the FBI checking?