U.S. Census Bureau officials said Friday that confusion over how to count shore residents has made it pull at least 20 canvassers out of Brigantine after a local crew leader resigned in protest.
Debra Dunham, who recently moved to the city from Minnesota, submitted her resignation Thursday and said she was ordered to expedite the counting of residents there even if it meant not following procedures to get accurate numbers.
“The motto from the local census office is ‘Git-r-done,’” she said Friday.
Census officials said their attempts to blanket the area more thoroughly with enumerators was misunderstood as trying to take shortcuts, and so reduced a group of 50 counters to 30 to erase the misconception.
Dunham sent her resignation letter to the city’s offices and the media, and after her concerns were forwarded from the local office in Northfield to the regional office in Philadelphia, officials said they were changing their handling of the area’s count.
Regional Director Fernando Armstrong said his office was investigating Dunham’s allegations, saying all workers are expected to attempt contacting a house up to six times in order to get a complete number of residents.
He said his office spoke with representatives from the local office and instructed them that they should be proceeding with the count according to the normal procedures.
The practice of bringing in more workers, called “blitzing,” was being used because the shore region is notorious for having too few volunteers. But it is also an expensive process, since the bureau pays several workers an average of $18 an hour to canvass a small area.
“What the local office was trying to do was get as much of the shore area done by bringing people from other parts of their territory to get it done before the weekend when you have a lot of people coming to shore homes,” Armstrong said. “It was never the attention to not continue to do door-to-door enumeration.”
Armstrong said there were also concerns among workers that this was taking work away from them, which he said was not the intention.
Armstrong said the bureau needed workers so badly that they had rehired Dunham by the end of the day Friday.
The 30 counters remaining will continue knocking on doors through the weekend and into the middle of July, Armstrong said, both in Brigantine and throughout the region.
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