CENSUS Day is a little more than a month away, and the crucial decennial count is more important than ever.
Beginning on April 1, the Census count will be distributed to every household to count every person living in the 50 states, District of Columbia and five U.S. territories.
Imposter scams pose a threat to residents across the country. Residents must be on the lookout for fraudulent census workers who may contact via phone, email, snail mail or home visits and ask for personal and financial information.
It does not cost anything to participate in the census, and the official U.S. Census survey does not ask for Social Security numbers or cash, credit card information or bank account numbers.
But even those that aren’t blatantly imitating the official census survey give off enough of an impression of being the official survey. The Republican National Committee (RNC) recently sent out a census survey — it asks for demographic information about the recipient — but also asks for contributions to the RNC and a promise to support President Donald Trump’s reelection.
The RNC mailer appears to mimic the U.S. Census Bureau’s official survey through uncanny stationery and font type, but at the top it reads, “Commissioned by the Republican Party.”
The document was mailed to several congressional districts in Philadelphia, and while it isn’t illegal for the RNC to send out mailers, the timing of the letters and the use of the word “census” could be misleading, according to U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-4) of Pennsylvania.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of having everyone included in the official 2020 U.S. Census. It is disturbing to see an organization taking advantage of important and causing confusion, and my office has partnered with the U.S. Census Bureau to help ensure they get the most accurate count possible — it’s an enormous impact on services, representation and dollars coming to our district and to our state,” Dean told the Philadelphia Tribune.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has called the RNC letter “intentionally deceptive” and “reprehensible” in another accusation of census tampering by the Trump administration.
And the threat of a misleading census survey that many may mistake as the official survey distributed by the U.S. Census Bureau also concerns California lawmakers, who’ve claimed that similar questionnaires have been circulating around the Golden State.
U.S. Rep. Katie Porter (CA-45) told the Los Angeles Times that people reached out to her office inquiring about the RNC mailer and were confused as to whether or not it was the official census. Particularly, residents who aren’t proficient English speakers have expressed confusion over the document.
Porter said that she was concerned that people would “toss their actual census envelope because they’ve already filled this one out” adding that the RNC mailer provides “a real risk of harm.”
U.S. Rep. Gil Cisneros (CA-39) condemned the RNC and conservative groups for “sending fake U.S. Census questionnaires” in a statement that emphasized the importance of an accurate count.
“It’s extremely disappointing that this scam is seeking to take advantage of our constitutionally mandated census. Not only does this throw confusion into the census process, but it also jeopardizes a fair and accurate count,” Cisneros said.
Despite the Trump administration’s efforts to include a citizenship question in the survey, the 2020 census will not ask about the citizenship statuses of each individual in each household, per a ruling by the Supreme Court. Immigration advocates and Democratic lawmakers feared that the citizenship question would drive down response rates, leading to an undercount of certain communities.
In other words, undocumented immigrants — who might opt out of participating in the survey out of fear of their undocumented status being used against them — are encouraged to respond to the survey.
“For the 39th District and for districts across the country, it’s especially important for us to properly reach out to communities that are historically undercounted in the census, like the Hispanic and the Asian American Pacific Islander and Black communities,” said Cisneros, whose district encompasses parts of northern Orange County like Yorba Linda and Fullerton as well as parts of east LA County like Rowland Heights and La Puente.
“We have to make sure that we do this right or else an unfair and inaccurate count can have detrimental consequences for families, students, and business owners for the next decade,” Cisneros added.
The census survey, distributed every 10 years, provides insight on, not only the numerical amount of residents but also determines the amount of federal funding and the number of seats in the House of Representatives each state gets.