Answering the census sounds simple; it isn’t – Hasso Hering


A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Answering the census sounds simple; it isn’t

Written August 5th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

Left at the door, this notice told me a census worker had stopped by.

This year’s head count in Albany may be in trouble if my experience this week is at all representative of how the system works.

A census worker left a notice — in English and Spanish — that he or she had stopped by. The notice told me how to complete the census questions online or on the phone. “Otherwise,” it said, “someone from the Census Bureau may contact you again to complete the interview.”

The notice was a surprise because I had completed the online form for this address months ago.

Undismayed and eager to see the census succeed, I went to and set out to fill out the online form again. The notice of visit gave me the 12-digit code I needed. But the census software rejected it as invalid and  said that for security reasons this session was now terminated. It invited me to try again by starting a new form.

OK, maybe the hand-printed G on the visit notice was really a 6. Or maybe the 2 was meant to be a Z. I thought I’d try out different combinations. But when I opened a new form at the census website, it turned out to be the form that had already been declared invalid. Several tries produced the same result: No new form.

With no way to do this online, I tried the toll-free number. This sounded promising because the number is said to be operating seven days a week from 7 in the morning eastern time to 2 a.m. the following day.

I called the number. Sad to say, it didn’t work. Following the prompts, I eventually got a message that a census worker had come by. Which I already knew.

This was the second call I had made. The first ended in an extended wait followed by a busy signal that told me the census had hung up.

I would like the census to be reasonably accurate. But I’ve done what I can. If the census people really want to know who lives at the address whose code ends in 2RY, or maybe ZRY, they’ll have to keep trying until they find somebody here. (hh)

8 responses to “Answering the census sounds simple; it isn’t”

  1. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Since you already did it online, I presume it confirmed you had successfully completed it. Having done so, I would have simply ignored the census-worker notice. (I also completed mine earlier, but haven’t had a follow-up as you have…)

    • Hasso Hering says:

      “Confirming” the earlier form would have been fine. But it said; “The Census ID you entered is not valid.” Not the same as: “Thanks for trying to do this again, but you don’t need to do this again even though we sent a worker to your place.”

  2. HowlingCicada says:

    I got the mail invitation with a printed code and filled-out the online form. A couple weeks later I got another invitation, with a slightly different (but correct) wording of my address and a different code. To avoid a call or visit from them, I went online again, don’t remember the details, found it impossible to inform them of the problem. I think I just filled out the form as if the previous one never existed, but carefully answered everything exactly the same as before, assuming they have good software to match identical people and addresses.

    Of course, I have to gripe about this: people who design websites (so called “front end” designers), and the pointy-heads who manage them, have to comprise the most incompetent group of people on earth – based on thousands of bad experiences over the years (I’m a long-time computer nut). I hope (and guess) that “back end” people are better.

  3. Constant Observer says:

    I have a similar, but different story. At a senior living facility many of us (and possibly all of us) received two census inquiries, each with different codes. I answered one form, but could not figure out how to respond in a way that would let them know a mistake had been made that potentially involved our entire building. Eventually, after several rounds of reminders to respond that bore the code of the survey I had not answered, I did phone the census number. I evidently did not explain the situation effectively, because I was merely told to just ignore the duplicate requests. (I used the term “duplicate requests” and did not get around to making the point that these requests used two different codes.). I have since gotten an additional message from the census alluding to having a worker come here to gather info in person, which is impossible to do due to the covid-19 restrictions on visitors. I don’t see any way that this census will offer even an approximation of an accurate census count.

    The latest I heard (MSNBC 8/04/2020) the Trump administration has just announced they will complete the count early and submit the report to the President before the end of the year. Curiously, this comes on the heels of a request from the administration for four more months to complete the count, which was made necessary by the difficulties of collecting data during the pandemic. It appears someone suddenly realized the report would be made, potentially, to the president of a new administration if they took four extra months to make the count, so they now will “complete the count” a month earlier than originally projected. Based on their very recent request for four extra months it seems obvious the count will absolutely and necessarily be incomplete when that report is submitted.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      “””… reminders to respond that bore the code of the survey I had not answered …”””

      Thanks for that detail I forgot in my comment. I didn’t call. I guess I’d rather spend an hour fighting a broken website than talking to anyone on the phone. Your way is better.

  4. William Ayers says:

    Sounds every bit as perfect as the O-Bummer Care website.

  5. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    The most crucial characteristic that defines progressive orthodoxy is support for the massive taking and redistribution of personal property by every level of government.

    This objective can’t be achieved without the census.

    So, stay silent and do exactly as you are told. It’s for the greater good.

  6. Bill Kapaun says:

    I wonder if those were the salesmen I chased off my lawn?


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