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2020 Census

The U.S. Census Bureau is hoping to receive 670 Klamath County applications for local short-term positions helping with the 2020 census. The last census was taken in 2010.

Nick Brown, Oregon Partnership Specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau, presented Klamath County commissioners with important census and related job information at a Wednesday morning meeting.

Brown said he didn’t yet know exactly how many Klamath County census jobs would be available or how long they will last, but the bureau would hire applicants as summer got closer. He said some positions will start in August.

The bureau is hiring enumerators to do footwork and research to confirm addresses, canvas and follow up with people who don’t respond to the mail census questionnaire. It is also looking for managers to oversee enumerators. Enumerators will be paid $14.50 per hour, and managers $16 per hour.

To apply, visit https://bit.ly/2xhJnHG.

Klamath’s numbers

Brown told commissioners that current Portland State University projections said Klamath Falls’ overall population increased by about 1,000 since 2010, from 20,840 to 21,980, and 1,500 more people lived in other Klamath County towns.

Ten to 11 questions will appear on the census, Brown said, on topics like age, sex, race and home occupancy.

Citizenship controversy

A question about citizenship status may appear on the census for the first time in 70 years, pending a ruling from the United States Supreme Court.

Opponents say this question, which would ask “Is this person a resident of the United States?”, could discourage census participation from non-citizen households.

This potential question sparked lively conversation between Brown, and Klamath County and Klamath Falls leaders in the Wednesday meeting.

During World War II, the federal government used answers to a similar census citizenship question to intern Americans of Japanese descent. Brown said opponents of the question often brought up this history, but it was not entirely relevant — the U.S. enacted Title 13 in 1954, which forbids census data from being shared for any uses not purely statistical.

Individual census data is embargoed for 72 years under Title 13, and Brown said any bureau employee who illegally shares personal data is subject to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

‘Infringing on my rights’

Commissioner Donnie Boyd said he believed the true purpose of the census was to conduct population head counts, and all other questions on sex, race, citizenship, etc. seemed out of line.

“The Constitution says everyone has to be counted every 10 years – where in the Constitution does it say you have to ask those questions?” Boyd asked.

Brown said he understood Boyd’s point, but the census was crucial for many reasons beyond a population head count.

The 2020 Census was especially important, Brown said, because Oregon’s population has grown so much it could grow its U.S. House of Representatives allocation from five to six spots.

The census also impacts how much federal funding goes to each state, Brown said, with each counted Oregon individual being worth roughly $25 of federal money.

The census is used to redraw congressional districts across the nation, Brown said, and can help businesses determine where services are most needed.

“I think it’s infringing on my rights,” Boyd said.

Klamath Falls mayor Carol Westfall agreed.

“I think so too, I think it’s profiling,” she said. “They’re finding out who lives here with what kind of an education; they can target their message to you, and that’s by getting all this information.”

Commissioner Derrick DeGroot asked what would happen if you didn’t fill out every question on the census form {span}— {/span}would an enumerator come to your door, then fill out certain gender or race bubbles if they saw what you looked like but you still declined to self-report every answer?

Brown said yes, it was possible.

‘Everyone has a voice’

Brown also described his personal stake in the census. Brown said more than anything, it was important for citizens to be educated and know the bureau would not share any personal data beyond general population statistics with the government.

Local government leaders needed to support the census, he argued, or citizens might not feel compelled to participate, leading to federal funding cuts and an inaccurate portrayal of Oregon’s population.

“This is important to me, I chose to do this because I think the mission of the census is important,” he said. “It’s making sure that everyone is counted, that everyone is equally represented, that everyone has a voice. I may look at this a little naively, but I like to believe the reason we collect this data is altruism.”