CHARLESTON, W.Va.--Census workers in West Virginia will make more door-to-door visits this year than officials initially thought because of confusion resulting from the statewide addressing and mapping project.
The new system was meant to standardize rural addresses by assigning a physical street address to every home in the state. The project is a result of post-Sept. 11, 2001 guidelines requiring better security and emergency response.
But while the new system assigned an address to every home, it didn't put a mailbox in front of each residence. Many residents who have a new physical street address under the system still get their mail at a post office box.
But in many cases, the U.S. Census Bureau used those new addresses to mail out census forms.
That resulted in some census forms being sent to non-existent mailboxes. Postal carriers would then discard those forms as undeliverable mail.
Those addresses were then listed as "non response," meaning a census worker will have to get the information in person at a later date.
"What I guess was not fully anticipated was how (the addressing and mapping project) would affect the census," said Anthony Galante, manager of the Charleston census office.
"There has been some confusion where it looks like we have addresses, but there is no mail delivery," he said. "It's all going to fall into the no response follow-up portion."
He doesn't know how many people failed to get their census form as a result of the address changes, but said his office has received "a great deal" of complaints from Roane and Wayne counties.
The confusion might be one reason why West Virginia is lagging behind the national average for mail participation in the 2010 census.
As of Thursday, West Virginia was showing a 63 percent participation rate for mailing back the forms. The national average was 71 percent.
All of West Virginia's bordering states were boasting higher mail participation rates than the Mountain State.
Participation in the census helps determine how more than $400 billion in federal aid is distributed to communities throughout the nation.
This isn't the first report of confusion resulting from the addressing project. Scores of Elkview residents and others in the state are now confused as to what road they live on after being assigned more than one address.
In those cases, the U.S. Postal Service lists one address and the Metro 911 system has a different address on file.
Some Elkview residents have reported having three addresses. Several have complained they are having problems getting their mail.
Galante said he's confident the final count for West Virginia will be accurate. He said census workers will simply have to do more in-person counting this time around.
Nate Williams is a Parkersburg resident who had his own problems getting counted.