The only wrong way to do the census is to not do it

To the Editor:

In spite of all of the disruptions that the coronavirus outbreak has caused in our community, it may be comforting to know that some things are carrying on as planned! One such thing is the 2020 United States Census.

Over the past few weeks, over 18.6 million people nationwide have completed and returned their census questionnaires, including nearly 18 percent of the surveys mailed out to Altamont residents. That’s a great start, but we’ve got a lot more work to do to make sure that every single one of us is counted.

There are several ways to complete the census: Some people choose to do it online through the census website; others may prefer to wait until they are sent a paper form that they can fill out and mail in; still others would rather give their answers to a census representative over the phone. Each of those ways is perfectly fine.

The only wrong way to do the census is to not do it. Because large community events where census staff would be present have been cancelled or postponed, some deadline dates have been changed. The most important change is that the Self-Response Phase where you may respond online, by phone, or by mail has been extended two weeks.

As of March 23, almost everyone should have received at least one invitation to participate in the census. If you have received your notice, and are comfortable doing the census online, please follow the instructions, go online, enter the ID code that your mailing provides to you, and complete the short questionnaire, which should take no more than 10 minutes in most households. It is that simple.

If you would rather wait until you receive a paper form, just be patient. One will soon be sent to any household that hasn’t responded online.

In areas like ours that do not have house-to-house delivery, it was originally planned that a census worker would visit the physical location, since the federal government does not mail to post office boxes. However, the census also has suspended these field visits because of the COVID-19 epidemic, and the residence visits likely will be delayed, if they take place at all. This operation was intended only to leave an invitation packet at the door so there was never a planned personal interaction.

Our local Altamont post office has been working very hard to provide residents who have post office boxes the census invitation because they may know the resident’s address which is associated with the post office box.

Our post office can best associate a post office box with a name, but since the census form is sent to the resident (with no name listed) at the street address, they may not recognize which post office box is associated with the street address. If the form is inadvertently returned, you may still respond online or by phone.

To do this, you may go to: to respond. On the website, there is a link option even if you don’t have your invitation ID that you would have received in the mail. It’s right below where you’d enter the ID. It leads you to questions about your location and address and then leads you to the questionnaire.

Actually, the aforementioned are the best ways at this point to respond in this COVID-19 world: Self-respond by internet, phone, or paper and avoid the visit by a census worker, if the bureau decides to allow field visits as originally planned.

The biggest disruption that the COVID-19 epidemic has caused us at the local level with regards to the census is that Altamont Free Library is not open to answer questions and provide in-person assistance as the library had planned.

Nevertheless, you can still call the library at 518-861-7239 and leave a voicemail message or email director Joe Burke at with any questions you have about the census. He’ll respond as soon as he’s able to. You can also check out census resources on the library’s website at (just click the census icon on the sliding menu).

One last point of information: Facebook is currently taking down re-election campaign ads that direct people to a survey labeled as a “census,” since people may confuse it with the once-a-decade head count.   The census bureau has spent the last year forging relationships with the major tech platforms — Facebook, Twitter, and Google — to provide accurate information about how the census works and to yank misinformation about the form and the process from their sites.

In January, Facebook began banning ads that discourage people from participating in the census or portray it as “useless.” The ban applies to ads on both Facebook and Instagram, which Facebook owns.  The platform also announced that other misleading posts about the census would be subject to removal. Typically, the platform does not remove false or misleading content from its site, unless it gives wrong information about voting.

Thank you in advance! Your participation will make a big difference for our community.  

James Gaughan

Altamont Mayor 2005-17

Joseph Burke,


Altamont Free Library


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