By Rich Exner, cleveland.com | Posted March 30, 2019 at 10:55 AM | Updated March 30, 2019 at 01:09 PM
Census taking in 2000. (U.S. Census Bureau)
CLEVELAND, Ohio – It took more than 200 years of counting U.S. residents, but the census is finally going electronic in 2020.
Most Americans won’t get a paper form in the mail.
And census takers visiting the homes of hard-to-reach people will record answers on iPhone 8s.
These are some of the changes the U.S. Census Bureau has made in preparing for census day 2020, which is a year from Monday on April 1, 2020.
The census is an American tradition that dates back to 1790, before Washington was the capital. This will be the 24th census. By comparison, there have been 45 presidents. And there has been a census every 10 years without fail, through wars and the Depression.
In the coming months, cleveland.com will explore a number of issues as the Census Bureau readies for the count. Today, we launch our census 2020 coverage with answers to 10 questions about the process.
1. If not on paper, how will I fill out the census?
About 80 percent of the American households will get notices in the mail with instructions of how to fill out the census form online. Only when they don’t respond after repeated requests will the actual form be mailed.
For other people – those more likely not to have internet access or those living where there are larger populations of older people – a paper form will be part of the initial mailing.
This is a change for 2020. Previously, paper forms were mailed to all households.
People will have the option to complete the forms by mail, online or over the telephone.
The Census Bureau has a $500 million communications budget to spread the word. You could see popup ads on the internet, inviting you to “click here” to fill out the form.
There might even be advertisements in public settings, say between innings of a baseball game, inviting people to go to the census website to fill out the form at that moment.
Just one census form per household will be counted. The Census Bureau has ways to sort out duplicates.