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Census enumerators begin delivery of 2010 census forms
The 2010 Census has begun.
Census enumerators began delivery of 2010 census forms to Lopez, Shaw and the outer islands Wednesday. General mailing of 2010 census forms to all island mailing addresses begins March 15.
April 1 is Official 2010 Census Day. On April 4, census enumerators begin hand delivery of 2010 census forms to all of those who did not receive one by mail (P.O. Box holders, for example) and to those who have not returned their form.
The census is mandated every 10 years by the U.S. Constitution; the results are used to allocate congressional seats, electoral votes and government program funding.
A census of all residents — citizen and non-citizen — in the United States is required once every 10 years by the U.S. Constitution. The information is used to determine congressional and legislative district boundaries, and distribute federal funds for public services.
Local census agent Tim Thomsen said the sole purpose of the census is to collect general statistical information. Replies are obtained only to enable the compilation of those statistics. The confidentiality of these replies is protected. By law, no one — neither the census takers nor any other Census Bureau employee — is permitted to reveal identifiable information about any census respondent. And confidentiality has been upheld as protected by the courts.
In 1980, FBI agents went to the Census Bureau’s Colorado Springs office with warrants to seize census documents, but were denied. Courts ruled that no agency, including the FBI, has access to census data. Census records and data specific to individual respondents are not available to the public for 72 years, but statistical data are released as soon as they are available.
Here’s what the census does for San Juan County:
— Determines distribution of congressional seats. Washington state is expected to gain an additional seat in the U.S. House of Representatives (Oregon could lose one) if population estimates are borne out by the census. In other words, if we have more residents, we need more representation in Washington, D.C.
— Defines state legislative districts.
— Helps elected officials decide what community services to provide, such as where to provide services for seniors, where to build new roads and schools, where to locate job training centers.
— Helps direct the distribution of $300 billion in federal funds to local, state and tribal governments each year. Census data affects how funding is allocated to communities for education, neighborhood improvements, public health, transportation, and more.
Thomsen said only 34 percent of San Juan County census forms were returned in 2000 — the most abysmal return rate in the state. He speculates they weren’t returned because this wasn’t the recipient’s primary address, or because of fear because of citizenship status.
A 2010 Census Questionnaire Assistance Center has opened at the San Juan Island Library. It is staffed by Bob Reilly five days a week. Here's his schedule:
— March 3: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
— March 5: Noon to 3 p.m.
— March 6: Noon to 3 p.m.
— March 9: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
— March 10: 4-6 p.m.
— March 11: Noon to 2 p.m.
— March 12: 2-4 p.m.
— March 13: Noon to 2 p.m.
— March 15: Noon to 2 p.m.
— March 16: Noon to 2 p.m.
— March 17: 10 a.m. to noon.