Workers publicize 2010 census

March 15, 2010 3:32:17 PM PDT
Census workers were out at Daley Plaza Monday reinforcing the importance of each household filling out the form.

In the shadow of a giant replica of the 2010 census form in Daley Plaza, passers-by were given information about the census which should appear in mailboxes starting Monday.

For 24-year-old Samantha Cornwell, it will be the first form she'll fill out on her own.

"I haven't really thought about all of it yet too much so much. I'm still going through the thoughts in my own head," said Cornwell.

The census bureau is hoping an aggressive campaign launched earlier this year will encourage more people across the country to fill out the form, which has been simplified.

"This time around there's a lot less burden on respondents because it's 10 questions, it's 10 minutes," said Richard Townsend, US Census Bureau.

But the answers to the once a decade population count are crucial. They determine whether states will gain or lose seats in the U.S House and how much federal money will go to municipalities.

"We have so many cuts in Illinois that at least if we have an accurate census we might be will show where we need the money," said Sue Jirkovsky.

"For every one person that's not counted, that's $19,000 for 10 years that doesn't come back to the city and the state of Illinois," said Alvin Boutte, Complete Count Committee.

But the census bureau faces a challenge with getting everyone on board with filling out the form, especially immigrants who fear it could be used against them by the government.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) put a video together in Spanish explaining that the census information is kept confidential.

"Maldef's point is, yes, we can be the largest minority, but if you don't count, you don't exist," said Elisa Alfonso, Maldef.

Alfonso says filling out the form is a civic duty that's as important as voting.

"Everybody should be counted. That's what I belive and it's the only way we can make that happen accurately," said Ronn Pitts.

In 2000, about 72 percent of U.S. households returned their census forms.

This time if everyone who gets a form mails it back the government can save a $1.5 billion in follow-up visits.