We have received inquiries from many of you asking this very question. If you search the Internet you can find lots of information. If we look at the Constitution, in Article I, Section 2 states,

[An] 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.

You will notice that the Constitution mentions nothing about providing information on your income, race, house blueprints, favorite dessert, how often you brush your teeth, if you are overweight, whether you prefer debit or credit…and all the other personal information that it seems that the Federal government wants to extract from you. So what gives?

We came across the following on www.usconstitution.net:

There are fines for non-response and for false response as well, though the amount has risen from the 1790’s $20. Today failure to respond can result in a $100 fine; providing false answers is a more severe offense, and carries a $500 fine. Recent news reports, however, indicate that punishment for failure to respond is not usually enforced. The controlling section of the Code is 13 USC 221.

The law requires, in the case of both the decennial census and the ACS, that all households that get a form must fill it out in its entirety, under penalty. Generally speaking, the Census Bureau is not interested in levying the fine, and prefers to gather the data. If a survey is not returned, the Census can follow up by phone or with a personal visit. There is, however, the threat of a penalty for non-response. The current penalty is $100 for failure to fill out the census forms.

The authority of the Congress to conduct the census in whatever way it wishes, and thus to require that the forms be filled out is found in the Constitution itself, which notes:

[The Census] shall be made … in such Manner as [Congress] shall by Law direct.

The Congress is also authorized to ask various questions in the census aside from the basic headcount by virtue of this clause and by virtue of the Necessary and Proper Clause.

Advice to leave the form blank or to fail to fill it in may actually bring more of the government into your life than you want — as noted above, unfiled and incomplete forms will be followed-up upon by actual census workers, either in person or by telephone.

Because of the confusion on what is required, we have asked Attorney General Cuccinelli and Senator Martin to provide Virginia citizens with some guidance. We are hoping to provide further guidance soon on the best steps to take when completing your Census form. Stay tuned…