American Community Survey

Did anyone else receive one of these? According to their web site, US Code Title 13, sections Section 141 and Section 193 your response is required by law.

In reality, those sections outline that The Secretary (who is presumably defined elsewhere) can take surveys as a part of their census process. It is Section 221 that requires you to respond:

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…

That’s just a crock.

Oh, sure, census information is useful and all that. It’s just the principal of it. I guess I’ll have to ask the nice lady who came to my door for some evidence that she is an authorized officer or employee of the Deparment of Commerce, or a bureau or agency thereof acting under the instructions of The Secretary.

Heck, I’d pay the $100 if it weren’t for Title 18, Section 3571 (allegedly Section 3559 as well, but that seems to deal with imprisonment and not monetary fines). With it on the books, the “not greater than $100” fine becomes “not greater than $5000” fine. That really blows.

718 Replies to “American Community Survey”

  1. Don’t be so quick to believe those who tell you that they are allowed to ask you anything they want to ask you and that you are required by law to respond and respond truthfully.

    Title 13 sections 141 and 193 are reported to allow the Census Bureau to ask whatever they want. The truth is that those subsections allow for any census, sampling, survey, etc. ‘as necessary’ for the ‘initiation, taking, or completion thereof.’

    Think about that ‘as necssary’ qualifier. Statistics on personal lifestyle are not necessary to the census.

    Further, everyplace where census is defined in Title 13, it is defined as ‘decennial enumeration of the population’ (that is its statutory definition). All sampling, surveying, etc are related back to the census which according to Title 13 is the ‘decennial enumeration of the population.’

    Of course, the census bureau can take the position that they are allowed to ask you anything they want to ask you. They can even take the postion that you must respond. When someone who is trying to manipulate you tells you something is true, don’t believe them – even if they write it down and cite statutes.

    It is incredibly easy to cite sections and subsections of law in such a way that you can reinforce your position or make a point. The unfortunate thing is that the law is so complex, it is almost impossible for the average adult to research the law.

    The question of the lawfulness of the ACS has never been heard by a court. Until it is, the census bureau will just keep pushing people around taking their privacy away.

    Isn’t it suspicious that the Census Bureau has never prosecuted anyone for not responding. Why not? Wouldn’t it encourge better response rates? Or would it expose the unlawfulness of the ACS?

  2. Me again. As I mentioned above, I am not a lawyer. If you are thinking of ignoring the requests, you may want to consult one. My own findings seem to indicate that the US Code says that they can ask whatever they want – so long as it is connected with the census or survey provided, and done under the proper ‘authority’.

    This may or may not make the act unconstitutional. But just because something is unconstitutional doesn’t mean you’ll have an easy time fighting it. It also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Just be ready. It also doesn’t mean that the included questions are allowed, and I haven’t researched that. Anyone who has, and can add to it, I’d love to hear your findings.

    For one, US Code Title 13, Section 141 letter d (I’m not sure what that letter is called, perhaps ‘subsection’) says that the secretary may order a mid-decade census in 1985 and every 10 years thereafter.

    For another, it is perhaps correct that the US Code may not be changed. Not being a lawyer, I don’t know. But the passage I just cited has a date of 1985. So it can certainly be amended. And Title 18, Section 3571 appears to do just that – amending the fines, making it possible for them to increase to not more than $5000 instead of not more than $100. Consult a lawyer if you are unsure.

  3. Private Citizen agreed to share their letter to the editor, which I reprint here with their permission. This was orginally submitted under the title Big Brother Wants to Know All. I have edited the contents slightly for appearance.

    Even though it is not a census year, the U.S. Census Bureau is conducting a “rolling census” called the American Community Survey (ACS).

    They are sending the survey to one segment of the population at a time, rather than doing it all at once, with the idea of getting to everyone by the year 2010. We received the ACS in January (editors note: I believe this was 2005). Along with the survey, several glossy pamphlets were included, explaining the supposed need for this information with much assurance that all information is strictly confidential and protected by the Census Bureau. The questions are very intrusive, inquiring into the daily and personal habits of each member of your household. For example, under “Housing” you are asked how many vehicles you have; monthly fuel, water, and electricity costs; monthly rent or mortgage; estimated value of your property and annual property insurance. Forty-two questions are listed to be answered by each person in your household.

    Disturbing questions in this section include a question asking if you have any physical, mental, or emotional conditions that would make it difficult for you to go shopping or go outside the home, involvement of the grandparents in raising the children, and the exact time you leave for work and name of your employer. It’s difficult to imagine a legitimate reason for a government entity to demand this kind of information from its citizens. If you have concerns about Big Brother becoming too interested in your private affairs you will not like this survey.

    The U.S. Constitution provides for a census every 10 years, which is simply a headcount for congressional redistricting – nothing more. After deliberating many weeks, we decided to give the only answer required by the Constitution – the number of people in our household. However, several weeks later, we were contacted by a census taker. I explained why we would not answer the other questions. Two days later a Federal Express overnight mailer arrived with a letter from the Regional Director of the Census Bureau, emphasizing that our participation is REQUIRED by law. That evening, a census supervisor from the Twin Cities left a message on our recorder, stating that our answers are required by law and requesting a return call that evening. This orchestrated pressure is both intimidating and upsetting.

    Sadly, Congress, being well-aware of the questions on this survey, appropriated the money (OUR tax dollars) to the Census Bureau to conduct this detailed information gathering on every American citizen. United States Code Title 13, Section 221 states that no one can be fined more than $100 for not particpating in a census. If it comes to this, we’ll pay the fine to protect our Constitutional right and to protect ourselves from government intrusion. When you receive the American Community Survey in the mail, please contact your Senators and Representatives and let them know how you feel. Don’t be intimidated into providing personal and private information that you normally would not give to just anyone, much less the federal government.

  4. I received the American Community Survey last April 2005. We did not answer ANY questions, except for head count in our home. Weeks later, a census taker appeared at our door. I informed her that this census was unconstitutional, except for answering the number of people in the home, and politely declined. The following evening a message was on our recorder from the Twin Cities (I’m 100 miles away) requesting a call-back that evening and emphasizing we MUST answer these questions by law. We did not call back. The next day, a Federal Express package arrived from the Census Hqt with all sorts of slick pamphlets and another letter stating we MUST answer these questions by law. We never responded to any of this coersion.

    However, I spoke with a laywer by phone and called my state representative and one of the state senators. The senator’s office said we did not have to answer it by law. The representative’s aide, when I quoted Title 13, Section 221, stated that United States Code cannot be changed and if it says a $100 fine for not answering, that is what the fine is, if it is enforced. This dispelled other rumors of $5,000 fines for me. The laywer also said to just ignore the pressure and don’t answer if we didn’t want to.

    I then wrote a long editorial for our local paper and any other area paper that would take it. People need to contact their senators and representatives and PROTEST the use of OUR TAX MONEY to conduct this intrusive information gathering program. If you don’t stand up to this, soon they will demand to know your underwear size. Put an editorial in your paper and advise others to NOT ANSWER, except for the head count answer. We have never heard from the American Community Survey again, and it has been almost a year.

    Again, I cannot emphasize enough the need to call your senators/representatives and MAKE NOISE. This is a stealth census…your neighbor and friends will not get it the same time you do, causing you to stand alone and probably cave in to answering it. Don’t do it….inform others this is coming. One has to wonder why it is being distributed this way.

    Private Citizen

  5. I have a hard time believing that a person could be fined or otherwise prosecuted for ignoring a piece of mail addressed to “Resident.” However, I have been surprised, shocked, saddened, etc. by a lot of things that our gov. does to us.

  6. Tatum, just be careful. According to the citations I found above, you can indeed be found liable (for not more than $5000) for refusing to answer, or for answering falsely. If you can afford it, bravo. But many people can’t!

  7. We got this census in the mail a few weeks ago and are trying to ignore it-can’t beleive that they are threatening legal actions if we don’t respond-we got another with friendly threats yesterday and I am truly unnerved-I can’t deal with all the questions that we are supposed to answer-so personal! And the stupid comments about how they are going to use all of this information for school and community funding-I believe it about as much as I believe Bush really won the 2000 election-Lord have mercy on this country.

  8. Ah, but you miss the point.

    I’m really not concerned about the privacy aspect.

    What bothers me is the fact that in what is purported to be a free country, it seems more and more that the government requires certain actions be undertaken. I think that’s wrong.

    Taxes bother me, but more because of the waste of government than the fact that I must contribute something.

    Social Security bothers me because I am paying into a system that allegedly was set up for the benefit of people, but in reality the government uses to shore up its budget.

    Animal licensing bothers me because I already spend a ton of money on our animals, and an extra $10 a year, while it’s not going to break me, isn’t going to make me take care of them any better, while I can lose those animals if I don’t spend the money.

    Spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a sports complex for a privately owned enterprise bothers me. Why can’t I get a subsidy like that for my company?

    And yes, having to provide information to the government bothers me, no matter the level of confidentiality. This is partially because I have been required to do so and partially because those equitable house seats are so useless.

    The government envisioned by our forefathers was one where the government represented the people – not the other way around, where people are constantly infringed upon by a government purporting to act in their best interest.

  9. I was looking for something else but somehow stumbled on a link to this clip. I had to respond.

    Do you have a CVS card or a card from your grocery store? As much as you are worried about a survey that is was put into law by the founding fathers to guarantee the equitable distribution of house seats, at least the privacy and confidentiality of the information is confidential — unlike information from your credit card, your purchasing history, or what telephone calls you made this afternoon.

    Pick your battles rather than edify your ideologies.

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