Q&A – Duplicate Census Forms In South Florida

Today’s entry: Where I live is strictly townhouses. I asked the lady next door who lives alone if she received a census form. She received two. I went down the street and asked another neighbor. He had received three. I was, fortunately, able to tell them that there is no law requiring that they fill out the forms. The envelope states that "your response is required by law". That is deliberately misleading. The law requires that Congress take a census, not that you are obligated to participate. In any case, I realized that if people are getting more than one form, the Census Bureau could easily be counting those forms as they are mailed in, thus doubling or tripling the number of people in a household.

Bottom Line: Lost in the news cycle amid corona concerns – the Census count. The Census Bureau began their tabulations in Florida March 13th, and by now you’ve likely received a mailer or two or three as the case may be. Incidentally, my experience was similar to what you described as I received two per property. That seems to be the norm. But about your concerns of duplicated counts being taken, that’s not an issue no matter how many forms are received and how many are filled out. 

All Census data is aggregated in an online database. You have an option of going online to fill out the Census but even if you don’t, the Census employees will once they receive your form. Every address has a unique, single-use, code that must be entered in order to have information tabulated for the address. Once it’s used, it’s done, regardless of how many forms are filled out. The multiple mail-outs might not be the most efficient use of taxpayer funds, but that’d be the extent of the concerns. As for the law... What you’re saying isn’t quite accurate. 

It’s the United States Constitution, under Article I, Section 2 which mandates the Census be taken. Our participation is addressed under Title 13 of the U.S. Code and it was updated in 1984, under the Sentencing Reform Act. Here’s the original language: 

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 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."

The language was updated in 1984 to raise the penalty for noncompliance up to $5,000. It is, in fact, unlawful to not comply with the Census and you can be prosecuted by the federal government. The question is if they would prosecute. The last prosecution for a Census related case was 1970. I’ve heard the arguments against participating over the years, however, I’m a rules person and this is a civic responsibility. I’ve completed the Census and would encourage you to do the same. 

Submit your questions using one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Twitter: @brianmuddradio

Facebook: Brian Mudd https://www.facebook.com/brian.mudd1

Photo by: Getty Images

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