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CENSUS LIMITS ... I need some help
Original post made
by MIGUEL, Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on May 16, 2010
Recently I wrote a post on door solicitors and received many wonderful suggestions (ask for a license for example) ... This Saturday a census taker came to the door ... no problem ... we have 3 people in the house. Ethnic ... well okay if you must know ... names, phone numbers, etc ... NOPE! Something inside of me sensed it was an intrusion. Now, I'm not paranoid ... and I'm not trying to pose a political position. What I would like to know is: what is the LEGAL obligation on my part to give information? I don't want to end up in jail on a federal felony wrap (okay I'm trying to be funny) ... but where IS the limit? I know some of you out there know. Thanks in advance.
Posted by Rae
a resident of Mohr Park
on May 16, 2010 at 2:05 pm
I'm going to take your words at face value and provide information on the Census and its history as if you really don't have a political axe to grind.
The Constitution addresses the Census and its timing. Article 1, Section 2, of the Constitution states: "(Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.) The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct." Congress first met in 1789, and the first national Census was held in 1790. Web Link
The 14th Amendment, ratified July 9, 1868, corrected the fractionalization of non-white persons counted in the Census. "Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed." As noted in the above paragraph (sentence in parenthesis) the census originally counted "other persons" (slaves) as three-fifths persons for the purposes of apportionment. Web Link
Remember that phrase above in Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution that the Census will be made "in such Manner as they shall by Law direct"? Today the controlling law for the U.S. Census is Title 13, Chapter 5, Subchapter II, Section 141, of the U.S. Code. Web Link
Refusal or neglect to answer questions and false answers is covered in Title 13, Chapter 7, Subchapter II, Section 221 of he U.S.Code. it states: "(a) Whoever, being over eighteen years of age, refuses or willfully neglects, when requested by the Secretary, or by any other authorized officer or employee of the Department of Commerce or bureau or agency thereof acting under the instructions of the Secretary or authorized officer, to answer, to the best of his knowledge, any of the questions on any schedule submitted to him in connection with any census or survey provided for by subchapters I, II, IV, and V of chapter 5 of this title, applying to himself or to the family to which he belongs or is related, or to the farm or farms of which he or his family is the occupant, shall be fined not more than $100." and "(b) Whoever, when answering questions described in subsection (a) of this section, and under the conditions or circumstances described in such subsection, willfully gives any answer that is false, shall be fined not more than $500." Web Link
This is the shortest Census in history. There are only 10 questions. The Census website explains why each question is asked. Web Link Note that according to this information, 3 of the questions have been asked since 1790, one since 1800 and one since 1890. I can add that for question 5, the name of the "Head of Household" was recorded from 1790-1840; beginning with the 1850 Census and since, all names in the household have been recorded.
I don't consider the Census questions particularly intrusive. A loan application, for example, is certainly much more personal than the 2010 Census form. In the end, however, you are responsible for your actions, so it's up to you whether or not you choose to answer. I hope this info has helped you make up your mind.