- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said Monday he is heartened by the high level of participation so far in the 2010 census, with no indications that large numbers of conservatives were only partially filling out the form or boycotting the government count.

“We can’t find empirical support for that,” Mr. Groves said, addressing fears of lower participation among conservatives. He noted that perhaps 1 percent or 2 percent of the 10-question forms returned so far have been incomplete, which is what officials anticipated.

Mr. Groves’ comments, which he made at a news conference to urge Americans to mail back their census forms by Friday, ran counter to anecdotal reports in recent weeks that anti-government sentiment might spur a mass boycott among conservatives who consider the census form to be overreaching.

Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Ron Paul of Texas are among those who have been vocal in expressing their intent to refuse to provide information about anything except the number of people in their household, saying that providing anything more would be an invasion of privacy.

“Things are going quite well,” Mr. Groves said Monday.

With five days left for people to mail back census forms, about 65 percent, or more than 77 million households, have completed and mailed back their census forms.

That number puts the U.S. on track to match or surpass the 2000 mail-return rate of 72 percent. The Midwest leads, while the Southern and Western U.S. and big cities such as New York, Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia are lagging.

Mr. Groves said most of the lagging areas are rural, have dense populations, or have more minorities and people not fluent in English. That was also the case in 2000.

He urged citizens in big cities and border regions to step up their response to avoid visits by census takers.

The Census Bureau is asking people to have their forms postmarked by Friday as it prepares to send more than 600,000 census takers to homes beginning May 1. Homes that have not received census forms can call 866/872-6868 between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. to submit information by phone or find out where to pick up a form at more than 40,000 help centers around the country.

The Census Bureau has estimated it would save $1.5 billion in follow-up visits if everyone who received a census form mailed it back. The population count, conducted every 10 years, is used to distribute U.S. House seats and more than $400 billion in federal aid.

The highest participation rates are in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan and Nebraska, where return rates have ranged between 71 percent and 76 percent. North Carolina and South Carolina, which have participation of 67 percent and 66 percent, have topped their mail-back rate from 2000.

Alaska ranks at the bottom in participation, with 54 percent of households returning their forms. Other states with return rates below 60 percent include New Mexico, Louisiana, West Virginia, New York, Hawaii, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

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