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CFA: The American Community Survey

The American Community Survey showed up in her mailbox and this Colorado Springs woman was immediately suspicious.
In fact, she asked us not to use her name.
She says, "The questions that they ask... I kept asking why? Why do they need to know this kind of information."
She believes the questionnaire is too intrusive. For one it's lengthy... 28 pages and it comes with a 16 page guide which explains how to fill it out.
The U.S. Census Bureau wants to know how many bedrooms your home has... how many cars you drive... what your utility bill is... as well as your monthly mortgage payment.
It also asks how many people live at your house and how they're related to you. Plus... it asks about your income and how many miles you travel to get to and from work.
Josh Dunn, who teaches constitutional law at UCCS says... it seems to violate the U.S. Constitution.
Josh says, "It's unclear how this is related to what's required under Article 1, Section 2. They need to take a census in order to apportion the House of Representatives. That's the reason for a census. And these questions are obviously unnecessary for that."
Our Call for Action office took three phone calls about the survey from folks who had just recieved it.
But get this, it's been going to millions of mailboxes for ten years now.
It was designed in the year 2000 to take the place of the Census Bureau's long form.
Census officials tell me every month 250,000 of these are mailed out and altogether 3 million Americans are required to fill them out or be fined."
Josh says, "They, of course threaten you with these fines, but it does seem very rare that they actually will punish you."
I'm told if you leave a question blank you could be fined $100.
If you purposely answer a question wrong the fine is $500... all imposed by a federal court.
But Josh couldn't find any cases where citizens actually had been punished.
I was told the survey information is vital to help lawmakers decide where to distribute federal dollars, but when I asked specifics... like how much it costs the government to put out the survey and how many people have been fined for not completing them... I wasn't given any answers.
This Springs resident says she'll complete the survey, reluctantly.
She says, "To me, it's like too much big brother... Too much big brother."


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