The U.S. census manager told counters to use false answers

The texts of the Alabama Census Supervisor sounded urgent. “IT’S JUST …” one of them began. He then determined whether censuses should give false data in order to mark households with only one resident, even if they have no idea how many people actually live there.

The October texts obtained by The Associated Press were intended to check as many households as possible on the list of homes that should have visited the censuses because residents had never completed the census questionnaires. The supervisor wanted the censuses to prepare the cases – without asking households – as the Trump administration fought a legal battle to bring about an early end to the one-decade census.

The texts suggest the latest evidence suggests that the accuracy of the census has been sacrificed for the sake of speed as census takers and supervisors rushed to the census last month. Critics say the schedule has been shortened by two weeks so the Trump administration could carry out the presidential order, excluding people in the country illegally from the numbers used to divide congressional districts.

The text instruction said that if two unsuccessful attempts were made to listen to members of households and two unsuccessful attempts were made with landlords or neighbors about the occupants of the house, censors should indicate that a single person lives there.

“You need to clarify the matter, which indicates that 1 is busy,” the census supervisor of the small town of Dothan, Alabama, said.

The texts were shared by the Florida Census with the AP, who traveled to Alabama among groups of counters sent to areas lagging behind the counters. The existence of texts suggests that falsification of census data may be more widespread than previously known.

The census taker, who provided the texts, asked for anonymity because of privacy concerns and said he was unwilling to follow the textual guidance because he felt it would falsify the data. He refused to name the supervisor, who was identified only by his first name on the screenshots of the texts seen by the AP.

It was rejected by the U.S. Census Bureau any attempt to systematically falsify information during the 2020 census, which is essential to determine the distribution of congressional seats and federal spending. But AP is chronic similar instructions were sent to censuses in other regions of the United States.

Michael Cook, a spokesman for the Census Bureau, said the agency was investigating the Alabama case and did not reveal any data anomalies. When there appear to be problems with data collection, the office can take steps, such as reviewing households to improve accuracy, he said.

“We take allegations of forgery very seriously,” Cook said.

Since the beginning of the month, more than two dozen censors and supervisors have contacted the AP and told similar stories about the corners that cut him in a hurry to close cases as the Trump government tried to complete the census by October 31 in response. before the deadline. the epidemic.

Recent cases include a census supervisor in Baltimore who said a thousand addresses were manually marked complete without any evidence that residents had been interviewed.

The Alabama inspector included in his text a photograph of the handwritten instructions listing the 15 steps he said censors would allow office-only iPhones to allow only one person to live in their home without hearing anyone about the demographic structure of the household. or the number of people living there.

The supervisor also suggested taking the steps two to three hours after attempting to interview members of a household so as not to cast suspicion on senior members who could track where the censors were going through their IP phones.

The instructions were sent to the Alabama censuses a week before the Supreme Court ruled this allowed the Trump administration to complete on-site operations for the 2020 census on October 15 instead of October 31.

The Census Bureau said it collected information from U.S. households in the United States during on-the-spot operations. At the peak of the door-knocking phase of the census in mid-August, there were more than 285,000 temporary censuses in the office’s payroll.

In Baltimore, census supervisor Amanda Colianni said she said 5,300 cases in the neighborhood she managed were closed prematurely and removed from door-knocking efforts after the censuses made only one attempt to hear household members in mid-late September. The Census Bureau was working on the fact that officials at the time believed that October 5 would be an early end for the count.

Colianni said he did not know why the cases were closed and how they were resolved, although he thought it was possible that government administrative records were used to make up for the lack of information when detailed records from the IRS, Social Security Administration or other agencies existed for households.

An external census advisory group warned this month that filling a large number of households with administrative data at the end of the census process suggests that there is no good quality data on addresses. Had this been the case, the group said it would have been used earlier to save time for censors.

“I know that Baltimore’s leadership level was trying to push, push, push to make it happen,” Colianni said. “There was no way we could see a reasonable completion rate until October 5.”

Colianni submitted statements to the Department of Commerce’s Office of Superintendents, the United States Office of Special Advisers, and a coalition of local governments and interest groups, which sued because of the Trump government’s attempts to shorten the 2020 census schedule. The coalition case led to a decision by the Supreme Court that allowed the Trump administration to complete the headcount.

A coalition lawsuit in San Jose, California, claimed that the deadline for completing the census had been changed from late October to late September to ensure that the census rolls out while President Donald Trump is still in office, no matter the outcome of the presidential race.

This could guarantee the execution of a Trump order issued in July aimed at illegally excluding the country from the numbers used to determine the distribution of seats in Congress. Three courts found Trump’s order illegal – New York, California and Maryland. The Ministry of Justice is appealing.

Whether the Census Bureau will be able to meet the December 31 deadline for handing over the proportional numbers to Trump is now in jeopardy after the agency said Thursday it found anomalies in the data during the rollover phase.

The coalition, which opposes the early end of the census, wants to extend the census phase of the census from late December to the end of April next year, especially because the Census Bureau relies on a large number of administrative records to fill in the gaps. from data collection.

Coalition lawyers said they documented cases where censors were instructed to cut corners and assemble the numbers to close cases.

“The shortening of data processing operations will prevent the Bureau from finding and correcting these errors, as the Bureau itself has acknowledged,” they argue.


Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter a