One Thing You Still Can't Do Online

These days, you can do pretty much anything online, except for one: submit your U.S. census forms. A new website,, aims to change that, partially by “sham[ing] the U.S. Census Office for not having a method of online submission.” The website asks the same questions as the 2010 U.S. Census, but allows users to submit their answers online and see real-time statistics (as of April 1, 2010). The website also includes a petition urging the U.S. Census Office “to make an online submission option a higher priority.”[%comments]

Lance S

You think the census is messed up.

Try dealing with the copyright office...hahaha.


The first thing I noticed when I opened my census form was the lack of on-line option. Seems archaic.


I asked this obvious question to myself yesterday...

But hey, think about how many data entry jobs the census creates???


Right, because with billions of dollars of federal aid on the line, no one would go through the too-often simple task of hacking a website.

Marblecake, also The Game.


I understand the desire for on-line submission, but really how hard is sticking it in the mail? If the Census Office were hacked, had a hole in security that was not realized or any other privacy breech, the entire project would be at risk.

I love the Internet. It is helpful and wonderful and easy and well great. However, so far it is not secure--not at the government level, the corporate level, and certainly the personal level.

Tom from Wisconsin

The census needs to be complete. You can't get by with something that misses people. Thus, a follow-up canvass for addresses that don't return the form. You could argue (as you appear to be here) that the on-line option would cut down the mailings needed, but you are still going to have to do the mailings and follow-up. The extra steps needed suggest to me the savings would not be that significant. And the added layer means one more chance to game the system as well.


Not everyone has access to an online forum. The digital divide is very much alive in most of America. People typically want things online because they believe it is "easier." Filling in some bubbles took about two minutes. Less time than it would take for me to turn on my machine, go to the website and complete the document.


I'm guessing it's the same reason you can't vote online in the US elections. It's just not 'secure' enough in their minds.


If the online data entered was printable and submittable it would at least be worth doing.

Dave, Boston

More bothersome is the letter that preceded the census's arrival informing the public of the imminent arrival of the census. That mailing was a great use of taxpayer money!

Jens Fiederer

Stephanie - "Less time than it would take for me to turn on my machine"?

The machine should never be off!


If the census was available online they would not be able to subsidize the postal service by sending out both the census form along with the letter saying that you will soon be receiving a census form.


The census us meant to measure, as accurately as possible, the number of people that live here, with "living here" meaning those with home addresses.

An online option? What you seem to fail to recognize and take into account is that fact that not everyone that lives here has internet access. What is the estimate of households with internet access, somewhere around 50%?

Now, tell us this: if the only option was to undertake the census effort through an online mechanism, would this method lead to an equal or more accurate measure of the population? Hardly.

If anything, adding an online option would only increase costs without a proportionately larger benefit since it only benefits those with internet access (and not 100% of this group will use the online method).

Those without internet access would reply by mail, which is the same as they're doing now. Those with internet access will reply by mail or online.

If anything, the Census Office is making a prudent and fiscally responsible decision. What is the additional financial cost of developing such a web site? What is the additional financial cost of protecting this information, preventing fraud, preventing duplicate responses, etc.?

So where's the additional benefit of your original complaint? Just sounds like a lot of self-indulgence.



I don't understand the objections to online filing of census forms. We can file taxes online--or via snail mail--and to my knowledge the IRS hasn't gotten hacked recently... It seems like the IRS is a lot more high stakes than Census info because there are actual bank transfer #s all over the tax forms.


Does anyone know anything about Census Digitus, the "nonpartisan initiative" that claims to be behind this, but has no Web presence I can identify? And, aside from Dreamhost's street address, no substantive WHOIS information on the domain (or registrations of any censusdigitus domains). Despite the many disclaimers, this looks to me like an information collection scam.


I got a letter from the cencus bureau that said I would get another letter in 2 weeks. thats it. dumbest thing I have ever seen. another laughing stock of a government program. what is the point of the census anyway? I know there are a lot of people in cities, most of which wont return the form anyway. complete waste of time.


Sounds like it would be very difficult to prevent duplicate and fake entries unless you already had some kind of national database in place to check it against. Though, if you already had the database the census would probably be unnecessary since you'd have the data. I'm really not seeing how an online form would work. How many people are living at your ip?


It's so onerous to put the form into an envelope and drop it into a mailbox. There must be an easier way. There must. Sometimes a "problem" isn't worth solving, and this is one of them.


The Census is just doing its part to keep the Postal Service in business...


The Census is, by necessity, tied to a person's physical residence. By answering the form that comes to a particular address, you are verifying that you live in that location. How on earth would the Census validate addresses if we submitted them online?