Knock it out: Census 2020 begins house-to-house counting

A census taker knocks on the door of a residence Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in Winter Park, Fla. A half-million census takers head out en mass this week to knock on the doors of households that haven't yet responded to the 2020 census. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Census Bureau workers are embarking on the next phase of Census 2020 by knocking on doors of households whose occupants have not self-responded to either the mailed paper questionnaire or online.

But how do you know they’re an official U.S. Census Bureau representative?

“ If a census taker does come to the door, there’s criteria and we have rules around what they’re expected to do,” said Genesis Sanchez, Texas regional census campaign manager for the National Association for Latino Elected Officials’ education fund. “For instance, a census taker will knock from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at whatever local time they’re in. Any time before then or after then is not allowed.

“ They have an ID badge with their name, their photograph, a Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date,” Sanchez added. “And they should show this from the beginning but that process is pretty standard. They should be wearing a mask, they are being offered PPE. They have a census badge and a Census Bureau-issued electronic device. This could be an iPad or an iPhone, but they should have some type of device on them.”

Sanchez spoke last week in a webinar for census workers put on by Texas Counts.

During the presentation, Sanchez also said the door-to-door census counters, called the Non-Response Follow Up, or NRFU, will only be knocking until Sept. 30 instead of the initial deadline date of Oct. 31.

“ If they do visit, or they go to the home of your neighbor, landlord or other proxy, they should not ask into the home,” Sanchez said. “They should not either ask nor should our community members allow them to come into the home, especially during this time. They can only ask questions that are on the questionnaire and they will never ask for additional documentation.”

In most cases, census workers will make up to six attempts at each address to count possible residents.

This includes leaving notification of the attempted visit on the door. The notification will include reminder information on how to respond online, by paper or by phone. In addition, census workers may try to reach the household by phone to conduct the interview.

Texas ranks No. 39 among states’ in its census self-response rate with a total of 59.0 percent of households reporting. The national rate is 63.9 percent as of Monday.

Here in the Valley, Cameron County’s response rate is 47.8 percent, Willacy County is 38.9 percent, Hidalgo County is at 49.8 percent and Starr County is at 43.7 percent.

Among cities, Harlingen is at 51.2 percent, Brownsville at 54.3 percent and McAllen has a response rate of 56.7 percent.

rkelley@valleystar.com