WASHINGTON, D.C.—Yesterday, Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02) along with Congressmen Trey Gowdy (SC-04), Steve King (IA-05),  Steve Scalise (LA-01), and Jeff Landry (LA-03) offered an amendment to the FY 2013 CJS Appropriations bill that would prohibit the Census Bureau from using funds to enforce a criminal penalty on Americans who choose not to participate in the American Community Survey (ACS). The House passed the Poe/Gowdy/Scalise/King amendment unanimously.

The ACS is separate from the decennial Census that is required by the Constitution. The decennial Census that is conducted every ten years to account for the population includes ten basic questions. The ACS is a 48-question survey that is sent to 3 million Americans each year.It includes questions about mental disabilities in your home, personal financial information, whether you have a toilet and what time you leave for and return from work each day. Currently, those who choose not to respond are threatened with a criminal penalty. The Poe amendment would prohibit any funds from being used to enforce criminal penalties for people who do not wish to participate in this government-mandated survey.

“The Federal Government has no right to force citizens who do not fill out the American Community Survey with a criminal penalty,” said Rep. Poe.  “I have heard from countless Texans who are uncomfortable with the intrusive nature of some of the questions in the ACS, but they feel intimidated and forced to participate because the threat of a criminal penalty from the government still exists. I am pleased that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle agree that penalizing private citizens for not filling out a government-mandated survey is an abuse of government power.”

"Judge Poe hits the nail on the head with this amendment,” said Rep. Gowdy. “If citizens want to tell you how often they lose concentration or how many flush toilets are in their home, that's up to them.  Frankly, I think it's none of the government's business.  To threaten prosecution for the failure to answer these questions is outrageous.  The purpose of the census is to apportion the congressional seats.  Accordingly, asking about the number of household members of voting age and the race of the household members for purposes of constitutional compliance are the only two questions the government needs the answer to."  

“I am proud to join my colleagues in fighting yet another government overreach by an Administration that disregards the Constitution,” said Rep. Landry.

"We get better information from volunteers than we do people that are coerced” said Rep. King. “They may well not fill out this survey accurately if they think they're doing so under penalty of law. The American people should have the freedom to refuse to answer this Orwellian survey and not have an intrusive federal government threatening to impose a fine if they refuse."

"Washington bureaucrats should not be allowed to force American families to disclose private and sensitive personal information against their will through the American Community Survey under the threat of hefty fines, and I'm glad our amendment passed in the House today to reverse this offensive and intrusive policy,” said Rep. Scalise.