DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — Census coordinator Lori Wilcoxon said she is “not sure” what happened concerning text messages sent to the Associated Press concerning instructions to falsify census data.
In these text messages collected by a census taker from Florida, a census supervisor who the AP identified as being from Dothan is seen giving instructions to mark households as having a single resident if the taker could not determine how many people lived there.
Wilcoxon — who was hired by the city of Dothan, Houston County, and other local entities — said her work dealt more with educating people on the importance of the census and setting up places for people to fill it out themselves. A separate supervisor was assigned to the city.
“We never really went past the house to count people that had not done it themselves,” she said. “As in, we didn’t have a list that we went to.”
“I would not know what their directions were,” she added.
She did explain that the census generally knows how many households there are by working with the city and count. The 99 percent completion rate is done by counting these households when someone is known to live there.
“Instead of just not counting anybody when they know someone lives at that household, the default is to count that one person,” Wilcoxon said. “If there’s 10 that lives in the household, you don’t get credit for the other nine, but it’s just to make sure they have accounted for that house.”
She did say this would not be accurate, but census takers are left with little choice when a household is not cooperative. She also said the constant changes in deadlines also added pressure to a census supervisor making the call prior to the final Oct. 31 deadline.
“Right at the end, it came down that like two days from now, we’re gonna stop the census so you need to finish this up,” Wilcoxon said. “If there were, and I don’t know, but if there were a larger number of home that they had not been able to contact and get a response from in Dothan, then yes, I would assume that the answer would be count the one time so we can clear this up.”
WDHN’s communications with Census Alabama and the U.S. Census Bureau said that the people responsible for census takers are under the bureau’s regional offices. Dothan’s office is located in Atlanta.
The bureau told WDHN via email it has become aware of anomalies in the data collection.
“These types of processing anomalies have occurred in past censuses,” Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham said. “I am directing the Census Bureau to utilize all resources available to resolve this as expeditiously as possible. As it has been all along, our goal remains an accurate and statistically sound Census.”
The bureau also released the following statement on the matter
The U.S. Census Bureau is very proud of the hundreds of thousands of census takers who performed their duties professionally and efficiently and were responsible for one of the highest national address resolution rates in census history — 99.98%. The Census Bureau knows of no attempts to systemically falsify respondent information. We employed new information technologies and safeguards to prevent and identify mistakes or misreporting of data. We also conducted extensive follow-up quality assurance interviews.
The Census Bureau takes falsification allegations very seriously. Intentional falsification of respondent information by a Census Bureau employee is a serious federal offense, will be fully investigated, and referred for prosecution, if appropriate.
Some alleged incidents reported to the media may represent employment-related disputes and/or misunderstandings of operations. For instance, a household refusing to answer the 2020 Census to one census taker would likely have been reassigned to another census taker or supervisor, which reassignment would not be apparent to the first census taker. The concerns expressed by the initial census taker may not reflect the follow-up work done to resolve the status of the address.
We continued working cases in all areas of the country until the end of data collection. If we did not get at least the basic information for the apportionment count and could not resolve the status of the address, the case was assigned a final status code that showed this information was not available. As we have previously stated, the number of unresolved addresses was exceedingly low — approximately 0.02% nationwide — which will be ultimately resolved by well-accepted methods.
If you have any information or allegations to share with the Census Bureau in regards to data collection, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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