Is Photo Radar Affecting the 2010 Census in Arizona?

May 9, 2010

By now, almost everyone in Arizona knows that you must be served with a photo ticket for it to be legally valid. As such, the citizens have become accustomed to dodging process servers in order to avoid having to respond to tickets received in the mail. The main aspect of avoiding process service is to avoid answering your door for anyone you don’t know or who anyone you are not expecting to visit your home. Do this for long enough and you get out of your photo ticket Scott-free.

But this is also a census year, and those who do not respond by mail will be receiving in-person visits from census workers. The census response is very important to state and local governments, as each person counted is worth $25,000 federal and state dollars for their community over 10 years.

This is where Arizona may have shot itself in the foot with photo radar. As citizens have become accustomed to not answering their doors for unexpected visitors for fear of being served with a photo ticket, it is likely that many census workers will be unable to contact citizens who would have otherwise answered their door before Arizona’s photo enforcement experiment. With reported state photo program revenues reported to be around $35M, it means that if more than 1400 citizens go uncounted because they refuse to open their doors for fear of photo radar process service, the state will actually end up losing money.

KOLD reports that 30% of Arizonans have not sent in their forms and will be getting a visit from a census worker. There are hundreds of thousands of drivers who have not responded to their photo tickets who are weary of being served. It’s not hard to estimate that there is easily a population of more than 1400 who will go uncounted, since each address likely has several residents. Arizona needs every response it can get, as ABC15 has reported that Arizona’s response rate is “lackluster.”

So much for a program that was supposed to make money for the state, and all of this at the height of a recession when Arizona needs all of the funds it can get. An undercount could also lead to losing a seat in the leglislature. What was touted as a way for the state to make millions may end up costing Arizona dearly. These are all unintended consequences, and for that, we can all thank former governor Janet Napolitano.

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