Monday, November 30, 2009

Regional Census Offices search for Questionnaire Assistance Centers

Boston-region organizations - Do you serve populations that speak a language other than English? Are you willing to donate space for at least 15 hours a week that can be used by census employees to provide language assistance for people completing 2010 Census forms?

If so, your Census Office wants to hear from you. The Census Bureau is currently identifying facilities that can be used as Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QAC). The Bureau needs 2,460 sites in the Boston Region alone. Questionnaire Assistance Centers simply require a small private place in a public facility where the Census Bureau can staff a table with translators to provide in-language assistance to help non-English speakers complete the 2010 questionnaire. Questionnaire Assistance Center will be open between mid-March and mid-April 2010.

If you are a Boston-region organization and would like to serve as a QAC, please contact your partnership specialist or the Boston Regional Census Office at (617) 424-4501 or by email at by December 21.

Don't live in or around Boston? Census Regional Offices across the country are looking for facilities to serve as Questionnaire Assistance Centers. To contact your Regional Census Office about becoming a Questionnaire Assistance Center, click on your state.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Census jobs opening across country

Got this press release from Kara Mapel at the Kansas City Regional Census Office. Seems they have officially started hiring for the spring 2010 count and have thousands of positions to fill in 30 local census offices in Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Similar staffing needs are occuring at Regional and Local Census Offices around the country - keep your ears open. Those interested in applying for these jobs can call the Toll Free Jobs Line at 1‐866‐861‐2010 for more information.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The New Constituents

A new report released on November 17th by America's Voice examines how Latino population growth will shape Congressional apportionment after the 2010 Census. They predict that eight states will gain seats in the House of Representatives and eleven states will lose seats (Texas (+4), Arizona (+2), Florida (+1), Georgia (+1), Nevada (+1), Oregon (+1), South Carolina (+1), Utah (+1), Ohio (-2), Illinois (-1), Iowa (-1), Louisiana (-1), Massachusetts (-1), Michigan (-1), Minnesota (-1), Missouri (-1), New Jersey (-1), New York (-1), and Pennsylvania (-1)).

Their findings have some interesting implications:
  • Latinos are not just settling in major cities, but in diverse regions of the country. After the 2010 Census, new Members of Congress in states like Georgia and South Carolina as well as Arizona and Texas will owe their positions, in part, to the expanding Latino population.
  • States that are losing Congressional representation would have fared worse had Latinos not moved there in record numbers.
  • While their states’ Congressional delegations are shrinking overall, Latino voters are gaining power as they expand their share of the electorate. Not only is the overall Latino population growing, but the number of Latino voters is also increasing dramatically.
  • As this demographic continues to grow, politicians who ignore or demonize the Latino population in their states will find the road to re-election much more difficult.
To read the full report, click here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Update on Census Equity Fund in Boston, MA

In Massachusetts, local funding group Access Strategies Fund and other local foundations have come together to create the Massachusetts Census Equity Fund launched to provide up to $400,000 to Massachusetts nonprofits for work on the 2010 Census. They will be granting funds to area nonprofits. Applications are due 11/25/09. For more information on how to apply, visit their website.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

(Boston Globe) - MassVOTE on Boston's phantom precinct

Photo and story--Boston Globe --
It’s one of the stranger rituals of Boston politics: For each Election Day, a pristine ballot box is cleaned, filled with fresh ink, and force-fed at least 50 test ballots before being lugged to a seaside precinct where nobody will vote.It’s the lonely machine,’’ said Loretta Paulding, the election warden in charge of Ward 1, Precinct 15, for the last 15 years. “But I do have to keep an eye on it. And at the end of the night, I still have to tally up zero, zero, zero.’’

This phantom precinct, made up of Boston’s Harbor Islands, where no ballots have been cast in the last four elections, is a quirk of the city’s intricate electoral landscape, which because of an obscure legal exemption has not been redrawn in almost a century. The archaic system will be on display again today, when Boston voters go to the polls to elect a mayor and City Council.

Critics argue that the antiquated structure should be reorganized and streamlined to reduce the number of precincts, an overhaul that would require fewer poll workers and police officers and save taxpayers an estimated extra $100,000 per election, according to MassVOTE, a nonpartisan voting rights group. The current, lopsided structure leaves the busiest ballot boxes with more than 2,300 voters during some elections, while other precincts have far fewer.

“This one little voting place is so out of whack that it is an indication that all the precincts in Boston are in need of adjustment,’’ said Avi Green, executive director of MassVOTE. “They all need to catch up with the last 100 years of demographics and history in our city.’’

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Prisoners of the Census - News from Ole Miss

One Mississippi. 48 states don't allow those sentenced in prison to vote, yet they include them in the election districts where the prison happens to be located. How convenient. It creates districts empty of real voters easy to win for incumbents and giving undue representation to rural districts where many prisons are built. In a welcome departure, we applaud the recommendation of the Mississippi Attorney General who declared "Inmates under the jurisdiction of the Mississippi Department of Corrections … are not deemed 'residents' of that county or locality, as incarceration cannot be viewed as a voluntary abandonment of residency in one locale in favor of residency in the facility or jail. For purposes of the Census, these individuals should have been counted in their actual place of residence. For more - Prisoners of the Census

Friday, November 13, 2009

New Multilingual Fact-Sheets from AALDEF

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund has launched its Twenty10 Project initiative to promote Census participation within the Asian American community. The initiative has kicked off with the release of educational factsheets provided in English as well as 13 Asian languages: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Gujarati, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Punjabi, Tagalog, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

Access the factsheets and find out more about AALDEF's campaign here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gerrymandering: Pure and Corrupt

Why do we continue to allow legislators to redraw their own districts? That is the question a recent editorial in the New York Times asks. Every 10 years, following the decennial census, state legislators around the county sit down to redraw not only congressional districts, but also their own state legislative districts. In effect, legislators are given the opportunity to choose their voters, rather than the other way round. This practice stymies electoral competition, precludes genuine accountability on the part of legislators to their constituencies, damages the public's trust and ultimately leads to corrupt and unresponsive government.

According to the Times, “New York Public Interest Research Group reports that in 2008 more than half of the state’s 212 legislators were re-elected with more than 80 percent of their districts’ votes. In 57 districts, the incumbents ran unopposed. New faces appear rarely, usually when a lawmaker retires, dies or, increasingly, gets convicted of abusing the public trust.” (Be sure to check out the Times' interactive feature "Redistricting New York Style" to see examples of some New York's worst districts.)

The editorial echoes arguments made by Prisoners of the Census, a group devoted to
examining the unintended consequences of counting prisoners in the census in the states where they are incarcerated. Prisoners are used as “phantom voters” to inflate the populations of the districts where they are held, and because they can’t vote, skew the numbers in favor of one party over another.

With so many viable alternatives, now is the time to stand up to legislators to demand a stop to partisan redistricting before we are left with another ten years of gerrymandered districts. To learn more about redistricting, visit The Redistricting Game website.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

D.C. passes same day voter registration

The DC Council has unanimously passed an election reform bill that includes Same Day Registration and asks the District to look at implementing a system of universal voter registration.
See this statement from Miles Rapoport, President of Demos.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A tale of two fails: the impossibility of accessing confidential Census data

(Image source- 2010 Census website)

Here's two little-known anecdotes of times that people have tried- and failed- to access confidential Census data.

1953— During the Truman administration, the White House had to undergo renovation. It was necessary to relocate the President until the renovation was completed. The Secret Service requested from the Census Bureau information on residents living in the proposed relocation area for the purpose of performing background checks. However, because census data are ABSOLUTELY CONFIDENTIAL, even to the President, the request was denied. President Truman spent his exile at Blair House.
1980—Armed with a search warrant authorizing them to seize census documents, four FBI agents entered the Census Bureau’s Colorado Springs office. No confidential information was ever released because a census worker held off the agents until her superiors resolved the issue with the FBI.

Another little known fact: in 1961, Congress strengthened the law so that even copies of census questionnaires kept in your possession cannot be used as evidence against you in a court of law.

Want it spelled out more simply? As one Census administrator put it:
"No one can get access to census data. It is rock solid secure."
--James T. Christy, Los Angeles Regional Census Office Director

Complete Count Committee guide - Census Bureau

Friday, November 6, 2009

Update on the 2008 Asian-American vote

The Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) has released “Getting Out the Asian American Vote: Achieving Double Digit Increases in Turnout During the 2006 and 2008 Elections,” based on work APALC conducted in 2006 and 2008 to mobilize Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters in Los Angeles County.

APALC's report:
  • Shows that AAPI voters respond to traditional campaign tactics such as personal phone calls.
  • Explains how phone calls made to “low-propensity” AAPI voters can generate increases in turnout which significantly exceed the typical 3 to 4 point increase produced by comparable phone calls.
  • Describes tactics that APALC and OCAPICA used in their campaigns, and highlights what tactics were most effective in turning out voters.
  • Provides information about similar work conducted by the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA) in Orange County.
The report can be found online at

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

TABOR ballot questions go down in Maine, Washington

2 ballot initiatives to restrict spending to a percent of current years spending and budget went down in yesterday's elections, in Maine and in Washington.

Iris Lav, Senior Advisor, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said in a statement today:
"By rejecting TABOR, officially Question 4 in Maine and I-1033 in Washington, voters have helped these states preserve needed public services and improve the business climate. Colorado, the only state ever to adopt TABOR, suffered a serious deterioration in education, health care, and other services due to its rigid spending limits. That's why a broad coalition of residents -- including business leaders -- came together to suspend it in 2005."
The measure was widely opposed by nonprofits in both states.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How hard to count is your neighborhood?

How in danger of being missed in the decennial census are people in your community ?

Michigan's 2010 Census Planning Website makes it easy for Michigan communities to find out, allowing you to search for your addresses' census tract and its "Hard-to-Count" score designation.

The tool also brings up your area's census form mail-back rates, percent renters, percent unemployed and poverty rate from the last decennial Census.

Monday, November 2, 2009

English-only registrations creates barriers for voters

(Photo- Iowa Independent)
In March of 2008, an Iowa state court ruled that providing non-English voter registration forms to voters was a violation of a state law which required English to be the "official language" of the state.

The IA Secretary of State's office removed all non-English registration forms from its website, and as a result, non-English speakers in Iowa faced special difficulties in registering to vote for the 2008 presidential election.

With the 2009 elections tomorrow and 2010 midterms only a year away, Michael Zuckerman revisits language disenfranchisement in a working paper Constitutional Clash: When English-Only Meets Voting Rights.

"General criticism aside, English-only policies are particularly troublesome when applied to voting," says Michael Zuckerman in a recent guest column to the Des Moines Register. "This is because voting is a fundamental right and one of the most important tools of political change. To that end, requiring voting materials to be only in English infringes upon the rights of Iowans to vote and to petition the government, both of which are protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution."

To download Zuckerman's paper, visit the SSRI website here.