ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY JULIE ANDERSON
Every 10 years, America takes inventory of its population in an attempt to count every woman, man and child who lives here.
That major undertaking, mandated by the U.S. Constitution, is upon us once again.
U.S. Census 2000 is an involved process that actually began two years ago when census workers started collecting mailing lists.
After putting together a base list, census workers are sent out to update the lists.
?We feel fairly comfortable that we have a pretty accurate reflection of the communities in the county,? said Sherman A. Parks Jr., manager for the U.S. Census district that includes Marion County.
To check the lists, Parks said postal employees compare it to their daily delivery routes.
Cities and counties also can get involved in the process by cross checking the lists the census office has put together.
Mayor Delores Dalke said Hillsboro city staff has spent ?days and days? updating the old census records to make sure all of the address are correct.
?We?ve had a lot of growth in Hillsboro since 1990 and there has to be a lot of work done by the city staff to make sure those addresses are included and people aren?t missed,? Dalke said.
Parks said Marion County was one of the few counties where they sent out a staff person to update lists in the last month. Once the lists are compiled, census forms will be mailed out March 13 through 15.
?Once you get it, if you want to fill it out and mail it back in, that?s great because the sooner we get it processed the sooner we can identify where we need to send census takers,? Parks said.
Two forms will be mailed out. Most of the public will receive the short form and one in six will receive the long form.
?The short form is kind of a who, what, where, when, name, sex, race,? Parks said.
He said the short form takes about 10 minutes to fill out.
The long form, which takes about 35 minutes to fill out, asks more detailed questions.
Parks said the long form even asks how many toilets are in the residence. He said the reason for such a question is that it?s required by an act of Congress to determine waste management needs and groundwater contamination.
The long form also asks questions about school enrollment, ancestry, language spoken in the home, place of work and several questions regarding housing.
To get an accurate reading from small towns and rural counties, more long forms will be distributed.
Those who fill out the forms and mail them back will receive a card, mailed out from March 20 to 22, thanking them for taking care of their civic responsibility. People who did not return the forms will receive a reminder card.
Parks said the cutoff date is in late April. After that deadline, the census office decides where to send census takers, who are then responsible for getting information from people in their community. The census takers receive training and compensation for their work.
?The bottom line is they go out and get the information the person did not fill out and send in,? Parks said.
If it is not possible to get the information from the individual, census takers can get basic information from neighbors, although it?s not the preferred method.
?We instruct our people to exhaust everything possible by going back in the evening or weekends or multiple times to try to get that information directly from the individual,? Parks said.
The census office is looking for about 15 to 20 census takers in Marion County.
He said they hope to improve the response at the state and national level.
?Kansas basically has historically been a very good state on a nationwide basis for filling out the form and getting it back in,? Parks said.
Parks said about 76 percent of the people in Kansas have participated in the past, while the national average is only 62 percent.