Categorized | Op-Ed, Opinions

Opinion: The Census is broken and here’s how to fix it

By Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7

Baron Sekiya

Baron Sekiya

The early report is that the cost of the 2010 Census will be about $14.7 billion. Yes, that’s billion with a ‘B.’ The Census Bureau spent money on Super Bowl commercials, on NASCAR races, posters, stress-relief squeeze balls, tape measures, potato chip bag clips and tons of advertising.

The national 2010 Census participation rate as of Sunday (April 18) is 69 percent with the Big Island coming in at 52 percent. The Census is important and we’re blowing it people!

I’ve got a better idea on how to get higher participation rates, improve accuracy and do it at a fraction of the cost of this boondoggle. Two words: National lottery.


Each state would have a $1 million prize based on the number of U.S. Representatives. So Hawaii would get two $1M winners while California would get 53 $1M winners. Each state has representatives in proportion to its population so this is a good base for the number of winners.

Don’t worry American Samoa, Guam, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands and D.C., I haven’t forgotten you.

A national lottery keys into our love for winning money in contests. If you’re Bill Gates and you win, you can just donate the money to some worthy cause.


Each person listed on the form is an entry. Got five people living in your household? You’ve got five entries. Got only two then you get two entries. If you falsify the data (for example, you really don’t have 100 people living in your home) and the Census Bureau checks you out, you’re disqualified and they move on to the next form.

They also correct your falsified data and there is no jail-time for this incorrectly filled out winner’s form, you just don’t win the money as we don’t want to discourage people at all from participating. Maybe you get a fruit basket or something.

People will want to win and will put correct data on the Census form. Sure you may see a spike in births and adoptions during a Census year but is that a bad thing?

Cost Savings

With 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives plus delegates from American Samoa, Guam, Virgin Islands, the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico and representatives from the Northern Mariana Islands and District of Columbia that gives us prize winnings of $441 million.

It will take minimal advertising to get the word out. Family members will be bugging each other to make sure forms are filled out. Maybe even entrepreneurs will open businesses to help people register for a cut of the prize money.

More than a third of the winnings will come back to the government in taxes. One Website estimates a Hawaii winner would pay $359,000 to the feds while the state gets $91,000 in taxes.

Because more than $145 million would come back in taxes this would make the expenditure a paltry $296 million compared to the total $14.7 billion we’ve spent for the 2010 Census.

With printing costs for forms, pre-paid postage and minimal advertising we can easily get the total cost to come in under $1 billion for the next census. I’m sure if you put the form online people would fill it out and press the send button.

Heck, have the national Census every year for even more accuracy and we still come in cheaper for the next few decades (how much will the 2020 Census cost?) And why not throw in tax-free winnings every 10 years?

The government should stop wasting so much money and use some creative thinking.

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