Which Census Questions I Won't Answer

| | Comments (0)

There's ten questions on the 2010 census questionnaire. I believe several of them cannot legally be required, and I won't be answering them.

The Constitution says on the subject:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.

The point here is twofold: a. that the federal government gets to count us, and b. that they can do it in such manner the law directs. Implied in the latter part, of course, implies "that doesn't violate the Constitution." Otherwise, they could just make pass a law that says "no one may criticize the Census," and it would not violate the First Amendment.

That's obviously silly, but it's the argument they actually make when they say they can require us to provide any information they choose to force us to provide, despite the fact that the Constitution says they cannot.

There's four types of questions on the form. The first is the explicitly constitutional one: the number of people living there; the second is about whether those people sometimes live elsewhere; the third type is individual identification: name, phone number; the fourth is demographic information for the purposes of tailoring government programs: age, sex, gender, and home ownership.

The first type of question is obviously legitimate, speaking directly to the point of the census as explained in the Constitution. The second is arguably legitimate, as it can aid in preventing double-counting.

The third type -- personal identifying information -- is arguably legitimate as well, for the same basic reason: helping to get an accurate count. Naming each person can aid the respondent in listing all the people properly, and the phone number might be used for clarification if necessary.

The fourth type, though ... it's pure nonsense. In fact, the federal government explicitly states the purpose is all about government programs, instead of enumeration. The constitutional purpose of the census is not served. This questions can, arguably, still be allowed and required, however, if any other part of the constitution is not violated in the process.

Unfortunately for the government, however, the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments do protect my right to privacy. Government cannot compel this extra-constitutional information from me without following due process, and "passing a law" is not due process.

So in the end, I'll only be answering the questions about how many people live here. I am undecided whether I will provide any names of the people living here. The justification is shaky, and it's arguable either way. I'll give them my phone number, though. The Census Bureau will be free to call me and ask for clarification, which will include recitations of relevant portions of the Constitution and legal precedents like Griswold v. Connecticut. slashdot.org

Leave a comment

<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by pudge published on February 7, 2010 9:00 PM.

My Netgear Router is Dumber Than It Thinks It Is was the previous entry in this site.

On Appointments and Filibusters and Recesses is the next entry in this site.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.