Filling out the 2010 census

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By Senator Jim Webb

In recent weeks, I have heard from dozens of Virginians regarding the 2010 Census. The U.S. Constitution requires that every ten years the government take a census to count the population. Many Virginians have already received their 2010 Census questionnaire in the mail, and I encourage you to take a few minutes to respond.


The data gathered from the Census is important to Virginians and their local communities. This data is used to allocate more than $400 billion in federal funding and determine locations for congressional districts, businesses, hospitals, and schools.

Many Virginians have raised concerns about confidentiality when submitting personal information. To me, the privacy of our citizens is paramount. The Department of Commerce guarantees that individual census records are not shared with anyone, including government agencies or private organizations. It is against the law for the Census Bureau to give personally identifiable information about an individual to any other individual or agency until 72 years after it is collected for the decennial census.


Below are some frequently asked questions on the 2010 Census from the Department of Commerce:


1. Who should fill out the census questionnaire?

The individual in whose name the housing unit is owned or rented should complete the questionnaire on behalf of every person living in the residence, including relatives and non-relatives. Fill out the form in blue or black ink and mail it back in the enclosed, postage-paid envelope as soon as possible.


2. How long will it take to complete the form?

One of the shortest census forms in history, the 2010 Census form asks 10 questions and takes about 10 minutes to complete.


3. I returned my completed form but a census worker still visited my home. Why?

We may not have received your form in time to update the census worker’s assignment, or your form may have been delayed or lost in the mail. When this happens, we instruct the census worker to collect your information anyway to remove the risk of not receiving your information.


4. Q. How does the Census Bureau count people without a permanent residence?

Census Bureau workers undertake extensive operations to take in-person counts of people living in group quarters, such as college dormitories, military barracks, nursing homes and shelters, as well as those who have been displaced by natural disasters.


5. What kind of assistance is available to help people complete the questionnaire?

2010 Census questionnaire language assistance guides are available in a variety of languages. Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QAC) will also assist those unable to read or understand the questionnaire. Large-print questionnaires are available to the visually impaired upon request, and a Teletext Device for the Deaf (TDD) program will help the hearing impaired. Contact your Regional Census Center for more details about the types of assistance available and for QAC locations.


6. Why do you want our names?

We request names for the following reasons:

    * To help ensure people are not counted twice in the census.

    * To help eliminate simple errors like counting “Mary Jones” as a male.

    * To allow you, and only you, to obtain a record from the Census Bureau at a later time if necessary for proving age, citizenship or family relationship. Some people need this information to qualify for Social Security benefits, to obtain passports and to have official proof for other purposes.

Although names are requested, the Census Bureau treats names the same as other census information provided — it is protected by law and strictly confidential. Information collected is used for statistical purposes only; the Census Bureau cannot publish or release information that would identify you or your household.


7. When will data from the census be available?

The population counts will be delivered to the President of the United States within nine months of Census Day (on or before Dec. 31, 2010), as required by law. This report will show the apportionment population counts by state, and the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives apportioned to each state.