Census Takers Make a Big Accusation

'I felt terrible, terrible. I knew I was lying.'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 8, 2020 2:00 PM CST
Census Takers: They Had Us Enter False Information
Former census taker Pam Roberts poses for a portrait at her home in Lafayette, Ind., Friday, Nov. 6, 2020.   (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Two census takers told the AP that their supervisors pressured them to enter false information into a computer system about homes they had not visited so they could close cases during the waning days of the once-a-decade national headcount. Maria Arce said her supervisor in Massachusetts offered step-by-step instructions in how to trick the system in September. She said she felt guilty about lying, but she did not want to disobey her supervisors, who kept repeating that they were under pressure from a regional office in New York to close cases. "It was all a sham. I felt terrible, terrible. I knew I was lying," Arce said. "I knew I was doing something wrong, but they said, 'No, no, we are closing. We have to do this."

At the time, census workers were drawing close to a deadline imposed by President Trump's administration to finish the count by the end of the month. Indiana census taker Pam Roberts' supervisor pressured her to make up answers about households where no one was home. Roberts agreed to do it for only one day—making up information on about two dozen households—before refusing to continue the next day because she believed it was wrong. Asked about the workers' statements to the AP, the Census Bureau said it was looking into the allegations, but the agency did not provide further details. The census takers shared their experiences as a coalition of local governments and advocacy groups wages a battle in federal court over the accuracy of the 2020 census. (The battle has reached the Supreme Court.)

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