U.S. Census officials in Orange County said Friday that far more questionnaires have been returned than anticipated during the nationwide survey’s first week.
The officials also reported that the response has lagged in several communities with large minority populations that historically have been undercounted.
With Sunday as the official deadline for returning the forms, nearly one-third of the more than 900,000 questionnaires dispatched in the county have already been mailed back to the bureau’s four local offices, census officials said.
But the return rate in Santa Ana, Garden Grove and other cities that contain large concentrations of Latinos and Asians was only about 10% as of Friday.
Authorities have been concerned that minorities may not be fully counted in the census, which is used to determine the distribution of more than $70 million in federal funds and figure political apportionment.
Most of the news from other parts of the county was good.
“We’re off to one gigantic start,” said Joe Montes, district manager in Fullerton, where a small army of retired residents are planning to help out Monday by manning telephones to call and remind people to return their forms.
Although the questionnaires are supposed to be returned by Sunday, which has been dubbed “Census Day” by federal officials, the forms probably will trickle in for weeks afterwards, Montes said. By law, a person who fails to return a census form can be fined $100, but the regulation is rarely enforced.
Instead, residents effectively have until about mid-April to return their forms. After that, they are placed on a roll of residents who will be telephoned or receive a visit from a census enumerator.