By Texas on the Potomac
One Texas congressman says Americans shouldn’t be forced into providing the government with personal information about their daily lives.
Rep. Ted Poe proposed legislation on Wednesday to make the American Community Survey voluntary as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., proposed a Senate version of the bill.
“The Federal Government has no right to force Americans to tell the government personal information that they are uncomfortable providing just because the federal government says so,” said Rep. Poe in a statement.
The United States Census Bureau distributes the American Community Survey to about 3.5 million addresses across the nation every year. The data gathered then helps determine the distribution of more than $400 billion in federal and state funds for infrastructures and services, according the the Census Bureau’s website.
The survey asks individuals questions ranging from their age and gender to how they get to work and the cost they pay for certain living essentials.
These questions, Poe said, are too personal. He’s heard from constituents who find the American Community Survey’s “intrusive questions” uncomfortable but feel forced to participate or suffer a criminal penalty.
An unwilling participant can face up to a $5,000 fine if they refuse to take the survey or knowingly provide false information.
A spokesman for the Census Bureau said taking the survey is just another commitment citizens must participate in to help their community.
“Just as people are required to respond to jury duty, get a driver’s license in order to drive, pay their taxes and report their income, they also have the obligation to respond to decennial census surveys,” a spokesman said in an email.
The data is also provided to local businesses across the nation who pay an annual fee to see data about their community. Patrick Jankowski, vice president of research at the Greater Houston Partnership, said in a promotional video for the Census Bureau, that he can use the data to attract businesses to the area, providing them a glimpse into the workforce and potential economic opportunities
But Paul said citizens should be able to have a say in what information they provide.
“By making this survey voluntary, people would have the opportunity to decide what, if any, information they share with the government,” he said.
Paul’s father, former Texas congressman Ron Paul, also strongly opposed providing information to the government through the survey.
The bureau spokesman said though the bureau doesn’t comment on specific legislation, if the survey is made voluntary it could cost the agency more money to administer and the results would not be as accurate. Annual response rates for the survey among mail, telephone or personal visits currently hovers around 97 and 98 percent.