A census supervisor in Alabama sent text messages to census takers instructing them to use fake data for households they were not able to get in touch with, marking down that such homes were occupied by a single resident despite not knowing how many people actually resided in the home, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
According to the report, the purpose of using the false data was part of an effort to “check off as many households as possible” before the deadline regardless of whether census workers were able to interview occupants in homes that failed to return questionnaires through the mail.
The texts—which reportedly had an “urgent tone”—came as the Trump administration was engaged in ongoing litigation to end the process early and enforce a presidential order to exclude undocumented immigrants from the apportionment data used to allocate congressional seats and distribute federal funds.
“The texted instructions said that if two failed attempts were made to interview members of the households, along with two unsuccessful tries to interview landlords or neighbors about the homes’ residents, then the census takers should mark that a single person lived there,” the report stated.
“You are to clear the case indicating occupied by 1,” read one of the texts provided to the AP by a census taker from Florida who was dispatched to Alabama because the state was behind in its count.
Another text reportedly showed handwritten instructions detailing the steps census workers should take before marking households they had not actually interviewed as having only a single occupant—with the supervisor adding that census workers should wait “two to three hours” after a failed interview attempt to enter the false data in order to “avoid arousing suspicions from higher-ups who could track where census takers had been through their iPhones.”
The latest revelation of false data being used in the census was by no means an isolated incident. The AP said that, in the month of November alone, it was contacted by more than two dozen census workers who claimed that they were directed to break protocol.
The allegations out of Alabama were strikingly similar to claims made earlier by Maria Arce, a census worker in Massachusetts who also said earlier this month that she was given a step-by-step set of instructions detailing how she should input false data in a manner that would fool the system. Arce said she was directed to park outside the address of the house before filling in false data for the home in order to get around the GPS tracking on her government-issued iPhone. She said that in one day she made up information for approximately two dozen households before she refused to go along with the scheme any longer.
The deadline for the Census Bureau to turn over apportionment numbers to the Trump administration is Dec. 31. Judges have already ruled that President Donald Trump’s directive to exclude undocumented immigrants is unconstitutional, but the administration appealed to the Supreme Court.
[image via YouTube screengrab]
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