|Answers to common questions about the 2010 census...|
|Q: What exactly is the U.S. census? What is its purpose?|
|A: The census is literally a counting of the U.S. population. The Constitution mandates that the census be performed periodically for two purposes - determining the states' representation in Congress and the apportionment of direct taxes.|
|Q: Are you sure? What about all those other questions?|
A: The only question specifically authorized by the Constitution
is the number of persons residing in each household. Answering this
question is mandatory. Any other questions are not authorized by
the Constitution and should be treated as strictly voluntary.
(To be more specific: the census questions authorized by the Constitution are those required to fulfill the mandates of apportioning representatives and direct taxes. In the past this may have required more information than a simple head count. For example: before the War Between the States, slaves were counted differently than freemen so race would have been a legitimate question at that time. This is obviously no longer a factor. Today the only information required to fulfill the Constitutional mandates would be the number of persons residing in each household, so that is currently the extent of the authorized census questions.)
|Q: But I've heard that they've made the census form shorter and more convenient this time, only 10 questions. Surely that's not too much to ask?|
|A: That is 9 questions too many. Once again, the only question specifically authorized by the Constitution is the number of persons residing in each household.|
|Q: Why shouldn't I just cooperate fully and answer all of their questions?|
|A: This is a personal decision. A growing number of Americans are offended and dismayed by the seemingly endless intrusions by the federal government into their daily lives. Those who are concerned with this trend may wish to restrict the amount of personal information made available to the federal government. Understanding the Constitutional purpose and authorization for the census is one way of limiting the flow of information - and power - to Washington D.C.|
|Q: I see a lot of talk about the Constitution here. Is there anything in the Constitution that forbids the census from asking for personal information?|
|A: This is looking at the issue backwards. The Constitution is a delegation of specific, limited powers to the federal government. That which is not specifically permitted is forbidden. So the question that should be asked is not "What does the Constitution forbid?" but "What does the Constitution permit?"|
|Q: How do you know what the Constitution means? Isn't that for courts and lawyers?|
|A: The Constitution is written in the plain English of its day, and in fact was designed to be understandable even to 18th century farmers who had little formal education.|
|Q: OK, I think I understand. So how should I fill out the census form? Should I fill it out at all?|
A: Being counted by the census is mandatory, not optional.
The census form must be filled in (with the information
required by the Constitution) and returned.|
What many people do is to simply return the form with the number of residents in the household, and no other information filled out. One may also attach a copy of Article I, sections 2 & 9 of the Constitution if desired. (A complete copy of the U.S. Constitution may be found here. Click here for a prepared statement in PDF format that can be attached to your census form.)
|Q: What should I do if a census taker shows up at my home?|
|A: Be polite, but firm in your assertion that the only required information under the U.S. Constitution is the number of people residing in the household. If he or she refuses to leave your property upon request, the census taker may need to be informed that the local police or sheriff will be called and trespassing charges filed. (Normally it would not come to this, of course.) You may need to be creative, but always be civil and non-threatening.|
|Q: What do you mean by "creative?"|
A: Be able to adapt to the situation. For example, in a past census
one of our people had at the ready a document entitled "Admission to
Rendering Legal Advice" for the census taker to sign as a sworn
statement along with two witnessing signatures. (If a notary is available
in the house such a document can be made into a sworn affidavit.)
Its content was essentially the following:
I, ___________________, an employee and/or representative of the United States Census Bureau am holding myself out to be an attorney by giving legal advice to _______________________ regarding specific provisions and requirements of federal law. I accept full responsibility for any liabilities or consequences arising from the legal advice that I have given.
This was used with a census taker who kept aggressively insisting that "the law" required more information to be given than the number of persons in the household. Said census taker quickly vacated the premises when he was asked to sign this document with his name, address, phone number, employee ID number, and Social Security Number. (Note that on this site we are not giving legal advice or attempting to compel specific actions. We merely make factual observations about the law, leaving it up to the individual how to make use of it.)
Another approach might be to use the Public Servant Questionnaire.
There are many possible scenarios, and each individual encounter with Census Bureau personnel is likely to be different. As mentioned previously, you may even need to be prepared to call the police to deal with unwanted and unyielding trespassers under extreme circumstances. When standing up for your rights it is often necessary to be flexible and adapt to the situation at hand.
|Q: Isn't there a risk I will be fined?|
A: The Census Bureau has historically used the threat of fines
in order to forcibly compel Americans to give up their private information.
Given the structure of the Constitution and the specific purposes
enumerated for the census, such fines technically should only apply
to those who refuse to be counted.
Of course our government has for many years been infamous in seizing power beyond its lawful authority. So, yes, there is a risk, though in our experience in dealing with several censuses it is a small one. In fact we know of no one who has been fined for answering the census in a Constitutionally appropriate manner. (For that matter we personally know of no instance of anyone actually being fined by the Census Bureau in recent censuses for any reason.) However, it is something to be aware of.
Another consideration that should be pointed out is that today Americans are living under an administration that many consider to be more authoritarian and vicious in pursuing total control than others in the past. This administration may well be more aggressive in moving against individuals who dare to stand up for their rights and for limited government. Therefore in the final analysis individuals must decide for themselves whether taking a stand against illicit governmental intrusion is worth the risk of being fined. (Certainly throughout our history there are many who have risked much more in the cause of freedom and liberty.)
|Q: What are your actual experiences in dealing with the census?|
A: The FAQ author (yours truly) has participated in previous
censuses, and in each case the only information given
on the mailed-in census form was the number of persons residing in
the household. (This will also be done for the 2010 census.)
On one occasion a followup census taker was dispatched. He was given the same information (number of residents only), and left. There was no further contact from the Census Bureau, and no fines were assessed. Others involved in assembling the information on this site have all had similar experiences.