WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Duncan Hunter (CA-50) has introduced legislation, H.R. 7106, the Authorizing Moderated Enumeration Responses Including Citizenship Acquisition (AMERICA) Act, that will limit the penalty imposed on U.S. citizens refusing or neglecting to answer one or more questions in connection with the 2020 census. 

“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. “My bill will protect the privacy of Americans while ensuring that those chosen to participate in the American Community Survey are not penalized for refusing or neglecting to complete the questionnaire.”

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.  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. While some citizens have no issues providing this information, many have described the process as intrusive.  Despite this feedback, 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.

Congressman Hunter’s legislation will 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. 

H.R. 7106 has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for further consideration.  If no action is taken on the bill in the remaining weeks of the 115th Congress, Congressman Hunter intends to reintroduce his bill at the beginning of the new 116th Congress which will convene in January 2019.  A copy of Congressman Hunter’s bill is available here.