Utah Rep. Chaffetz suggests mail carriers conduct Census
Double duty » Proposal would turn postal workers into counters
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Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, wants your mail carrier to count you.

Chaffetz said Wednesday he will introduce legislation to marry the U.S. Postal Service temporarily with the Census Bureau so that the postal workers can help with the once-a-decade count of how many people live in America.

"They really have the workforce in place to do this," Chaffetz said. "They already go to everybody's door."

Chaffetz proposes taking a "postal holiday," so that mail carriers, instead of dropping bills and magazines to your mailbox, would count the number of people in each household. The Postal Service matches up well with the Census needs, Chaffetz argues.

There are 760,000 postal employees, and the Census is anticipating it will need 750,000 temporary workers to conduct the Census next year. Congress is forking out $11 billion to do the count while the Postal Service is looking at a $1 billion revenue shortfall this year.

The Postal Service had no comment on the bill because the legislation had yet to be formally introduced Wednesday and Census officials did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

Chaffetz says he's introducing the bill to avoid having the Census hire groups like the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, which has been under investigation in several states for voter fraud during the 2008 election.

"The ultimate underlying thing here about the Census is trust," Chaffetz says. "And people trust postal employees a lot more than somebody just off the street."

Meanwhile, Rep. Rob Bishop introduced legislation Wednesday that would force the Census Bureau to count Americans living abroad.

The move is a response to Utah missing out on a fourth congressional seat after the 2000 Census because the bureau did not count thousands of Mormon missionaries serving overseas.

"The Census Bureau could fix this problem right now and count Americans abroad, but they refuse to and are sitting on their hands until Congress makes them do this," Bishop said. "It seems there is no other solution other than mandating that the Census Bureau change their policy immediately."

Bishop's bill follows on the heels of language that Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, tacked onto a funding bill that requires the State Department to study the best way to count Americans abroad.

The amendment is in reaction to the 2000 census when Utah came about 800 people shy of gaining a fourth U.S. House seat. But the census didn't count Mormon missionaries in foreign countries, a bone of contention with Utah officials who unsuccessfully sued.

Matheson called it "unfair" that LDS missionaries abroad are not counted in the Census.

tburr@sltrib.com