As mandated by the Constitution of the United States under Article 1, Section 2, a census is to be conducted every 10 years to collect basic demographic information of persons living in the United States for purposes of apportioning the U.S. House of Representatives and to levy direct taxes. The decennial census consists of 10 basic questions.
By Miriam Raftery
January 25, 2019 (Washington D.C.) — 50th Congressional District representative Duncan D. Hunter (R-Alpine) has announced plans to introduce a series of bills during the first 100 days of the new Congress.
Hunter calls his measures “common sense reforms” and calls on the new Democratic house majority to give his bills full consideration. The first measure he introduced is titled the “Authorizing Moderated Enumeration Responses Including Citizenship Acquisition (AMERICA) Act, which will limit the penalty imposed on U.S. citizens refusing or neglecting to answer one or more questions in connection with the 2020 census.
In 2005, however, the U.S. Census Bureau has also issued an annual, 14-page mandatory survey to 3.5 million households across the country, called the American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS asks each recipient dozens of “extremely personal questions, everything from household income to which type of fuel is used to heat the home,” Hunter’s press release states, claiming that many have described the process as “intrusive.” The U.S. Census Bureau has informed recipients of the ACS that the government-mandated survey is not optional and will result in a fine if not completed.
“I am beginning the First 100-Day Initiative by reintroducing the AMERICA Act, which will protect the privacy of Americans by ensuring that those chosen to participate in the American Community Survey are not penalized for refusing or neglecting to complete the questionnaire. The federal government’s priority should not be to penalize private citizens for not participating in a government-mandated survey outside of what is required of the Constitution,” said Congressman Hunter.
His bill, originally introduced in the last 115th Congress, would amend the census survey to ensure that those answering are not penalized for refusing or neglecting to answer certain questions. The bill also authorizes the U.S. Census Bureau to consider questions based solely on the number of individuals living in a household and their citizenship status.
Hunter’s bill would not eliminate a newly imposed requirement of the Trump administration requiring everyone to answer whether or not they are a U.S. citizen. However a federal court last week blocked implementation of the citizenship question. Critics have contended that it could suppress participation in the census and result in undercounts; census numbers are used to determine federal funding for communities across a range of programs. The citizenship question is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Hunter measure is expected to be referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. It is unclear whether the measure could muster bipartisan support needed for passage, however.