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Census form turns into a challenge - Valerie Baldowski

I am doing my level best to cooperate with the U.S. government's efforts to conduct the census.

For months, I have eagerly anticipated the start of the count, waiting patiently for the census form to be mailed to me. Since last year, I have been hearing the previews of the beginning of the process.

Then, finally, the form arrived in my mailbox. This is my very first experience filling out a census form, so I carefully took it and placed it on my stack of "mail and correspondence to attend to," where it sat for a week or so. I had every intention of filling it out promptly, but time got away from me. Then, one morning when I was having my first cup of coffee and watching the morning news, I learned the deadline to mail it back was that day.

I immediately filled out the form, then, realized it had been mailed to me without a postage-paid return envelope. I filled out a blank envelope in which to send it back, then realized I did not have a stamp for it. Besides, after I sealed up the envelope, I realized that in my haste to fill out the form, I had left an entire section blank.

I went to a questionnaire assistance center, got a whole new form -- with a postage paid envelope -- and filled it out completely. I tucked it into the envelope, and brought it up to the person at the front desk, who gives the outgoing mail to the mail carrier.

I thought that would've been the end of it, but the following month, I received a second census form. I dutifully completed it, making sure to fill out all sections, then, personally dropped it in the mailbox.

This marked the third time I had filled out a census form. I am hoping this gets mailed to the correct destination, so I will not receive yet another form through the mail, or a knock on the door from a U.S. census worker.

Thinking back over the years, and all the places I have lived, I think the census workers would have had their hands full tracking what parts of the United States I have roamed. I grew up in Atlanta, but I have traveled some. If I had been fitted with a tracking device, similar to the ones clipped onto the ears of animals to monitor their migration patterns, trackers would have seen that from Atlanta, I moved to Rhode Island, scooting from Providence to Pawtucket after a while, then back to Atlanta, within a 12-year period. I then moved to Conyers, back to Atlanta, then to College Park, then East Point, then Union City, then Morrow, where I am now.

Eventually, I may end up in Stockbridge, or McDonough.

In all that moving around, I don't ever remember receiving, or filling out, a census form. Maybe I was just moving around too much. But now that I've slowed down some, I'm glad to answer those questions so I, and my family, can be counted.

I have to hand it to the hard-working census officials who are working with the U.S. postal service to handle voluminous amounts of census forms being mailed out. That's not an easy task, making sure everyone gets a form. So I will gladly put up with getting two census forms through the mail, rather than no form at all.

I applaud the hard work the census folks are doing. The nation's population, I'm sure, has changed dramatically in the last 10 years, and it's a monumental task counting everyone, wherever they may be.

There's no telling where I'll be 10 years from now. I'll just say this: We should raise a toast to all the officials doing the counting. Kudos to them.

Valerie Baldowski covers government and poitics for the Henry Daily Herald. She can be reached via e-mail at vbaldowski@henryherald.com.