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Karl Rove Called in to Sell the Census

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, April 5 2010

"Hi, I'm Karl Rove. One of my favorite founders is James Madison, principle author of the Constitution. He created an instrument of democracy by writing into the Constitution a requirement for a Census every ten years to ensure fair representation in Congress. If you've not yet mailed back in your 2010 Census form, it's not too late. Please answer the 10 easy questions. They're almost the same ones the Madison helped write for the first census back in 1790. Learn more at 2010Census.gov, and thank you."

That's Karl Rove in a YouTube video that the Census Bureau tapped him to tape. The nod to James Madison is, one imagines, particularly appealing to the conservative audience that might be receptive to Rove's message. Indeed, there seems to be a concern in conservative circles that anti-Census rhetoric floating around in the ether is having the effect of driving down participation rates in conservative areas -- which would, of course, only serve to deny federal funding and representation to those communities. North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry recently blogged on RedState about the "blatant misinformation coming from otherwise well-meaning conservatives," that has to do with a concern of unnecessary government oversight, with a hint of worry about the survey's race-based questions. The Huffington Post points, for example, to remarks from Minnesota Republican Rep. Michelle Bachmann that she was planning to not fill out her Census form this year. And a video up on YouTube focuses on concerns that Census workers are tracking Americans via GPS for "round-up" purposes.

As we've noted, a the Census Bureau this year is putting out updated census-tract level state-by-state data every single day on the mail-in participation rates across the country, available for download in CSV format. It'd be fairly trivial for someone to mash that up with voting affiliation in particular areas to see if conservatives are indeed avoiding the Census.

That said, Rove's isn't the only Census video clip targeted at a specific audience. The Census Bureau has been producing all manner of YouTube "testimonials" of late to drive up participation in the census, from videos featuring reps from the gay and lesbian group Human Rights Campaign to one in the Telugu language (spoken by people of Indian descent) to another that attempts to convince native Hawaiians of the merits of filling out their Census forms.

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