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Want to save $1.5 billion on the cost of the current Census?

Mail your form back. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates it could save $1.5 billion taxpayer dollars if it could convince 100 percent of households to mail their forms back, according to their new Take 10 Map that tracks the nation's participation in the current census.

A Census worker makes a home visit.Flickr photo by USDAgovA Census worker makes a home visit.

While it's probably unrealistic to expect a perfect mail-in score, the Census Bureau is facing a new group of dissidents who do not want to stand up and be counted.

"Contrary to historical trends, some of the toughest challenges facing the agency responsible for measuring the nation's population are not from counting the traditionally undercounted groups such as African-Americans and Latinos," says a report by the Houston Chronicle. "Instead, a new and growing threat to an accurate national head count is coming from anti-government conservatives who may not fill out their forms to protest against 'Big Brother' in Washington."

The story made it onto the Huffington Post, where the site highlights "some of the crazier Census-related conspiracy theories," as well as some of the counter arguments for why participating in the census is important.

As of yesterday, the 46 percent of all U.S. households that received a form have returned them. California is just under the national participation rate, with 44 percent of California households returning their filled-out forms, according to the census map.

Inyo (56 percent) and San Luis Obispo (50 percent) counties have the best participation rates in the state so far, while Alpine (12 percent) and Mono (18 percent) counties have the lowest.

Around the country, South Dakota (58 percent), Nebraska (57 percent) and North Dakota (57 percent) have the highest participation rates so far, while Texas (39 percent), Mississippi (38 percent), Puerto Rico (37 percent) and Alaska (36 percent) have the lowest.

At stake for Texas is "an estimated $12,000 over the next decade in federal funding for transportation, agriculture, health, education, and housing" for every Texan missed according to the Houston Chronicle article. The same idea, if not amount of money, can be applied to every state that can't get an accurate head count given the federal dollars doled out based on the census tally.

The Census Bureau has a fact sheet about it's privacy policies available on its Web site, and the Washington Post reports that members of Congress have sought to ensure that confidential information collected by the Bureau will remain confidential.

"Provisions of the Patriot Act pertaining to information-gathering and sharing do not override federal confidentiality laws when it comes to the U.S. Census, the Justice Department said this week," according to the Washington Post report.

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