Census takers say they were told to enter false information

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Census taker Maria Arce poses outside her home, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in Natick, Mass. Arce says her supervisor instructed her step-by-step how to trick a computer system so that she could close cases for the 2020 census by entering false information about homes that she hadn't visited during the waning days of the nation's head count. She told The Associated Press that she felt guilty about lying but that she didn't want to disobey her supervisors who kept repeating that they were under pressure from a regional office in New York to close cases. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Two census takers told The Associated Press that their supervisors pressured them to enter false information into a computer system about homes they had not visited so they could close cases during the waning days of the once-a-decade national headcount.

Maria Arce said her supervisor in Massachusetts offered step-by-step instructions in how to trick the system. She said she felt guilty about lying, but she did not want to disobey her supervisors, who kept repeating that they were under pressure from a regional office in New York to close cases.

“It was all a sham. I felt terrible, terrible. I knew I was lying. I knew I was doing something wrong, but they said, ‘No, no, we are closing. We have to do this,'" Arce said.

At the time, in mid- to late September, census workers were drawing close to a deadline imposed by President Donald Trump's administration to finish the count by the end of the month.

Indiana census taker Pam Roberts' supervisor pressured her to make up answers about households where no one was home.

Roberts agreed to do it for only one day — making up information on about two dozen households — before refusing to continue the next day because she believed it was wrong. She said she entered made-up answers while in her car outside the homes since the mobile device used for data entry could track where a person was when making an entry.

“That’s not what this is about. If it’s not truthful, how can we use it?" Roberts, who lives in Lafayette, Indiana, said in an interview.

Asked about the workers' statements to the AP, the Census Bureau said it was looking into the allegations, but the agency did not provide further details.