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Eat ice cream and be counted

By Carol Morello
Lisa Rein

Eye Opener logo

By The Post's Carol Morello, our Census expert:
It's not every day that you get the chance to perform a civic duty, receive some free ice cream AND maybe win cold hard cash.

That's what the group is offering Tuesday afternoon in the Shaw neighborhood of the District, in a final push to entice residents to be counted in the 2010 Census. A truck loaded with ice cream and fresh fruit will roam Shaw's streets, starting at about 3:30 p.m. and continuing until it runs out of goodies.

Volunteers armed with fliers and cell phones will accompany the truck, so anyone who hasn't been counted in the census can call in their information to census operators. This is the final week before the Census Bureau closes its call center on July 30. As an added incentive, everyone who participates will be entered in a sweepstakes for the chance to win $2,010. is a political organization formed in 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, to increase political participation by African Americans.

The group's project director, Matt Nelson, said that when it sent out a similarly equipped ice cream truck in Atlanta last week, 55 people called in their census information. Since then, he said, hundreds more have called in to the group's toll-free number, 877-486-2010, to be entered in the sweepstakes and re-directed to a census operator.

The Census Bureau, which has no connection to the sweepstakes, has its own toll-free number, 866-872-6868.

Nelson said Shaw was chosen because fewer than than half its residents returned their census questionnaires in April, the mail-in deadline. It is not known yet how many residents of Shaw were counted by census takers who went door-to-door in May through early July.

Nelson said African American neighborhoods in large cities throughout the country typically had a mail-in participation rate of less than 50 percent, even in Midwestern states that otherwise experienced high returns. The group also has been running public service announcements on black radio stations, urging listeners to call the Census Bureau and give their information over the phone.

During the Atlanta promotion, Nelson said, many of the people who took the opportunity to call the census expressed satisfaction that they had taken part in the national head count, which is used to determine representation in the House of Representatives and is the basis for determining how to divvy up more than $400 billion in federal funds.

"It was akin to voting for the first time," he said of the way some people responded to participating in the census.

By Carol Morello  | July 27, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Census, Eye Opener  
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Handing out free stuff in DC? They'd better not run out early lest the vehicle be overturned and torched.

Posted by: jiji1 | July 27, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

What a novel idea. While of course we wish everyone would not need any nudging to vote, to serve as jurors, to complete their census forms, sometimes it takes some incentive to start the habit of participating as a citizen.

Paul Harris
Author, "Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina"

Posted by: patriotpaul | July 28, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

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