Why can’t you fill out the US Census form online?

26Mar10

After I got my census form in the mail, one of the first things I did was check how to fill it out online. I was rather shocked to learn that the census can’t be submitted on the web. So, I filled out the paper form they sent me, lamenting how incredibly archaic the process felt.

Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems like the US Census form is vastly simpler than a typical tax return. Both the federal and state governments have been accepting e-filed tax returns for many years. So why the heck can’t you submit your census info online?

It seems so easy: let people enter the serial number or another suitable identifier from the printed form they receive in the mail. Answer the questions online, and you’re done. Aside from saving people time, moving the census online would save the government a bunch of money that would otherwise be spent processing all those paper forms.

Hopefully the census bureau is already planning to move things online. And I’m sure it takes a long time to transform a process that has been done the old-fashioned way for so long. With that said, the next census rolls around in 10 years. Hopefully a decade will be enough time to modernize the system.



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