The official government forms for the 2020 U.S. census haven’t been mailed yet, but the Republican National Committee (RNC) is being slammed by critics for mailing out a mock-Census questionnaire that bears some resemblance to a census form.
The RNC questionnaire, according to Los Angeles Times reporter Sarah D. Wire, is labeled “2020 Congressional District Census” and contains “a lengthy questionnaire on blue-tinted paper similar to the type used by the real Census.” And RNC critics, Wire reports, view the forms as a dirty trick “designed to confuse people and possibly lower the response rate when the count begins in mid-March.”
“Unlike the official Census form,” Wire explains, “the RNC survey is largely made up of political questions, such as whether the respondent supports using military force against Iran, thinks race relations in the country are getting worse and believes ‘political correctness’ has gotten out of hand.”
The RNC is chaired by Ronna McDaniel, niece of GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah.
One critic of the RNC questionnaire is Daniel Wessel, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) who denounced it as “intentionally deceptive” and “reprehensible.” Wessel noted that the DNC also sends out surveys but stressed that it doesn’t try to fool people into thinking that they are official U.S. Census forms.
Wire reports, “With billions of dollars in federal funding on the line and a chance that California could lose a seat in Congress based on the Census results, critics worry some residents will fill out the mock Census document and ignore or throw away the real one.”
Rep. Katie Porter of California told the Los Angeles Times she feared that recipients of the RNC’s questionnaire would “toss their actual Census envelope because they’ve already filled this one out…. We want everyone to be responding to the actual 2020 Census. There is a real risk of harm here.”
This isn’t the first time Republicans have tried to deceive Americans with a mock-Census form: the RNC, Wire reports, sent out “similar mailers” in 2010 — which led to the Prevent Deceptive Census Lookalike Mailings Act. However, the RNC appears to have found a way around that legislation.
“The law bars non-government groups from sending solicitations with the word ‘census’ on the envelope through U.S. mail,” Wire notes. The most recent RNC mailer does not use the word ‘census’ on the envelope, though it is used repeatedly on the mailer itself.”
Democratic Rep. Jimmy Gomez of California told the Times, “Anything that confuses people, that makes them think they’ve actually filled out the Census, could cause them not to fill out the official Census when it comes. It’s something that could undermine the count.”
The United States Census Bureau has posted an actual copy of its 2020 Census online.
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by Ken Armstrong and Vianna Davila
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