Pandemic Photo O’ Day 151 – PLUS: My Experience of Enumerating for Census 2020

https://howmanydaystill.com/its/presidential-election-2021
https://days.to/until/us-presidential-inauguration

2017 – White nationalists protest removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia; the next day a protester drives a car into counter-protesters, injuring 19 and killing one woman.

August 11th

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2013 – Federal district court rules New York Police Department’s ‘stop and frisk’ policy is discriminatory and unconstitutional upon finding that 85% of people stopped are black or Hispanic.

August 12th

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Holy Crow! More than 150 days of this Pandemic Period (with counting day zero as the last day I had face to face class with my students – Friday, March 13th.)

And I’ve not posted this blog feature for two days now! In an image, here’s why I’ve been remiss at this:

I’ve mentioned previously that I’m working short-term as one of the “army” of census enumerators.

On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday I was out in the streets knocking on doors for about eight hours each day. It was hot, I walked a bunch (and drove some too) and was pooped when I got home as I’ve not been this active in a long time.

So, I went to bed earlier the past few days and didn’t get to write and post this feature for the past few days. I’m taking off from the Census today, so I’m catching up with this post for Tuesday (Day 151) and plan to post for today later on in order to capture Day 152.

On Tuesday, the big story of course was the announcement of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s running mate. In this crazy year, unlike election years past, we didn’t get the Pres and VP candidates on stage together for the announcement like we’ve had before:

https://www.upi.com/News_Photos/view/upi/87319089a797a53e42240ffc3cf12137/Barack-Obama-announces-Joe-Biden-as-his-running-mate-in-Springfield-IL/

Instead, most news sites ran variations of this “file photo” from one of the debates months ago:

They are set to appear together later on Wednesday afternoon, so perhaps the Photo O’ Day 152 (today) will be of that event.

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I would like to share a few words about my experience as a census enumerator so far – especially because there are still jobs available for this right now in many places. And perhaps my positive experience (so far) will encourage you to also take up this important civic task.

I need to make two things clear first. The Census Bureau is profoundly committed to confidentiality and data security. So, I’m not going to say anything here (or elsewhere to my spouse or anyone else) about info related to the contacts I’ve made, where I’ve gone and other specifics related to the interviews I’ve had.

I can and will reflect here on my general, overall experience of this work after three days in the field knocking on doors in order to guide people in completing their required census interview.

As I mentioned above, it’s been overall quite positive and it’s met or exceeded my expectations. I do have to say that I entered this temporary work with much enthusiasm for two reasons.

First, I’m a political nerd and knocking on doors for Census 2020 is a “civic bucket list” item for me. I place it alongside when I was able to attend the Iowa Republican Caucus in person back in 2012 while I was working with a school district over in the Hawkeye State.

And second, I believe that our two highest civic duties (yes, they are absolutely responsibilities we each have in a democracy) is to vote each time it’s possible to do so and to get counted every ten years.

Yet, Census 2020 has (like pretty much everything else these days) had one “political” fight after another.

From a year ago when the courts blocked POTUS#45 from forcing a “citizenship question” into the census to just a week or so ago when it was announced that the count will now end a month earlier (Sept 30th) than originally planned.

This sudden and unprecedented move to curtail the count has led to stories like this one from the center-left publication VOX – Trump’s latest plan to use the census for political gain, explained

And (breaking news) from today’s WaPo – Inspector general asked to review Census Bureau’s decision to end count early A key quote from this article:

By law, a census must be conducted every 10 years and turned in to the president by Dec. 31 of the census year.

When the pandemic hit earlier this year, the Census Bureau asked for more time to produce the population count.

The bureau, with the blessing of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, altered the tentative schedule and planned to continue field activities until Oct. 31.

But last week, the bureau reversed course and announced the deadline for data collection would be Sept. 30 to submit results by the Dec. 31 deadline.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/inspector-general-asked-to-review-census-bureaus-decision-to-end-count-early/2020/08/11/8da6c982-dc07-11ea-809e-b8be57ba616e_story.html

The state of Census 2020 and the controversy swirling around its difficult process this time was reported yesterday afternoon on NPR. Ironically, this story came on the radio while I was in my car about to step out for my next set of door knocking:

‘Not Enough Time’: Census Workers Fear Rushing Count Could Botch Results

https://www.npr.org/2020/08/11/901202892/not-enough-time-census-workers-fear-rushing-count-could-botch-results

I’ve knocked on those doors – at least 150 or more – this past Sunday, Monday and yesterday.

I was told in training that they try to assign enumerators addresses “in their own neighborhoods.” This has been the case so far as I’ve been able to knock on my own suburban street as well as most of the streets around my home.

Not only is this a plus in minimizing the “commute” time, but when I say (as per the “script” on the data-collecting device) to each person who opens the door for me “the Census benefits your neighborhood” I can authentically add “and this is my neighborhood too.”

Not every door opens for me though. At those residences, I leave a well designed form on which I write the unique 12 character code for the address. There’s instructions on it as to how to log their Census info on-line or over the phone. Hopefully those addresses will do that (as required by U.S. law, BTW) so I’m not assigned to visit them again.

People that I’ve worked with to complete the forms have generally been helpful and even kind. It’s been hot these past days and more than one person offered me a bottle of water to take with me. I’ve felt safe from catching COVID as I’m wearing a mask, staying outside on the doorstep and keeping my six foot distance.

I’ll close with my favorite moment so far. I’m keeping the details vague as to keep the aforementioned confidentiality.

I interviewed a mom who had her 10ish year-old son and two same-aged buddies noisily playing in the house. He broke from his pals to tell me his racial background when I came to that part of the form.

And he asked me what the census was. So (keeping my six feet of course) I got down to eye-level and explained in kid-terms how it’s something our country has been doing every ten years since Thomas Jefferson’s day and how it’s one of the most important things that we do when we live in the U.S.A. He seemed to get it and I went on to the next door.

A bit later as I was walking back by his home, he and the buddies were playing in their yard. He said hello to me, asked a couple more questions (like how old I thought he and his friends were,) and then showed me how he could do a back flip.

I was indeed impressed at his skill and my heart was warmed that I clearly made an impression upon this boy and perhaps his pals too. And hopefully when he’s grown up and gets the Census 2030 materials, he’ll remember why it’s vital that he stands (or writes) and gets counted.

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