BOTHELL — Eve Dietrich was skeptical of the survey she got in the mail in June from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“Your response is required by law,” it read.
It looked official, sure, but the return address was the obscure town of Jeffersonville, Indiana.
She tossed it.
Dietrich, 82, got two more letters with a stern reminder to fill out the survey.
“They made it explicit that you had to do it,” she said. “My son went online and followed the instructions.”
It asked for the standard Census-type data, such as name, birth date, gender, race, own/rent — until the last question: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”
Dietrich called The Daily Herald.
“How can they ask that when it’s illegal? How do they get around it?” she said.
Turns out it’s legit. In a weird governmental way.
What’s up with that?
Dietrich was one of the 480,000 households nationwide selected for the 2019 Census Test.
Households were randomly assigned one of two versions of the test. Half were asked the citizenship query and the other half were not. The purpose was to measure if that controversial citizen question would deter people from responding when the official 2020 Census is conducted, to gauge how many census-takers might be needed.
In other words, Dietrich was a lab rat.
It all stems from President Donald Trump’s pursuit of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
The experiment was launched in mid-June, about two weeks before the Supreme Court halted the Trump administration’s effort, saying it had provided a “contrived” reason for wanting the information.
So the citizenship question won’t be on the 2020 Census.
But Dietrich and the 239,999 other lab rats in her group must still answer it.
Now taxpayer dollars will be spent to compile the data and report on the response rate of the lightning-rod survey question conducted under the authority of Title 13, U.S. Code, Sections 141, 193 and 221 and approved by the Office of Management and Budget.
When asked how households were selected for the test, Donald Bendz, regional Census media coordinator, said in an email: “As a federal statistical agency, it is important to maintain a neutral testing environment so we are limiting certain details about the 2019 Census Test.”
Bendz said response is “mandated by law, but we prefer to encourage cooperation rather than impose penalties for non-response.”
The citizenship question is at the end of the survey that takes about 10 minutes to complete.
“You were forced to answer that last question,” Dietrich’s son Robert said.
Otherwise, it was not possible to complete the 10-question survey, so she answered them all — including the citizenship question.
The website reassures: “It’s safe, secure and confidential. Your information and privacy are protected.”
Dietrich isn’t so sure.
“I don’t want the government to stick their nose in,” Dietrich said. “A lot of people won’t fill it out, honestly at least, because they worry.”
Another question was if any others lived in the house.
No, sadly, she lives alone.
Max, her husband of 54 years, died two months ago. She was his caregiver for the last five years. He had Alzheimer’s.
The couple bought their condo new in 1981 when they moved to Bothell from California with their two sons, Robert and Derek.
Max was a manager for a trucking company and a black diamond skier. She worked at banks and did some community theater. The couple later operated Dietrich International, handling travel arrangements worldwide for touring theatrical productions for 12 years.
When I met with her last week, she wore white-framed sunglasses. With her black hair and red lipstick, she resembled Audrey Hepburn. She has the British accent to boot.
Dietrich grew up in London.
“I was a child of World War II. I was bombed on and bombed out,” she said. “At 3 years old in 1940, I remember me and my big brother standing on the steps in the backyard watching the Battle of Britain.”
Her best friend was killed by a rocket.
“Thankfully all we got was the blast damage, like the kitchen ceiling falling in. The windows were blown out many times from the blasts,” she said. “The good part was my brother and I used to sing in the air raid shelters.”
Dietrich wanted to be a singer.
She left London when she was about 20.
“I had two girlfriends. We traveled around Europe and we traveled to Canada. We went to California (on a green card). We thought we found heaven. It was in 1958. It was wonderful for single women,” she said.
“I knew Frank Sinatra when I was young and single, but that is as far as I’m going. He was a great guy.”
Did she date him?
“I’m not saying,” she said, coyly.
She met Max in L.A.
“His ex-wife was my friend and she introduced us. She lives in Miami and we’re still good friends,” she said. “Max was born in Germany. He became a U.S. citizen about 50 years ago.”
Is she a citizen?
“It’s nobody’s business but my own,” she said.