House Democrats introduce bills to penalize census misinformation

House Democrats introduce bills to penalize census misinformation
© Greg Nash

House Democrats on Thursday introduced two bills to penalize individuals for spreading misinformation about the upcoming 2020 census. 

The Census Form Integrity Act, sponsored by House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyFEMA tells House panel national supply of ventilators running low Stimulus opens new front in Trump's oversight fight Overnight Health Care: Trump resists pressure for nationwide stay-at-home order | Trump open to speaking to Biden about virus response | Fauci gets security detail | Outbreak creates emergency in nursing homes MORE (D-N.Y.), would ban nongovernmental groups from sending false census forms or census information to Americans. 

The legislation was introduced in response to recent incidents involving the Republican National Committee (RNC) sending mailers to individuals that look like official census forms. Maloney and other House Democrats sent a letter to RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDanielRonna Romney McDanielRNC brings in more than million in February GOP chairwoman negative for COVID RNC chairwoman recommended COVID-19 test after experiencing symptoms MORE earlier this month asking her to ensure the RNC “immediately” stopped sending these mailers. 

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Maloney said in a statement on Thursday that it was “unfortunate” that the legislation had to be introduced. 

“I urge my Republican colleagues to join me to block deceptive mailers that could harm the accuracy of the census and hurt our communities for the next decade,” Maloney said. “We simply cannot afford to get this wrong. If people aren’t counted, then they are not represented.”

A second bill, the Honest Census Communications Act, was introduced in conjunction with Maloney’s bill on Thursday. 

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooBottom line Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter dismantle Russian interference campaign targeting African Americans | YouTube to allow ads on coronavirus videos | Trump signs law banning federal funds for Huawei equipment House Democrats introduce bills to penalize census misinformation MORE (D-Calif.), would outlaw census disinformation communicated on paper, over the phone or online. Anyone who violated the law would be fined up to $11,000 per incident and face up to five years in prison. 

“America’s founders included the decennial Census in the Constitution because a representative democracy depends on an accurate count of its people,” Eshoo said in a statement. “The Honest Census Communications Act ensures that any attempt to intentionally spread lies about the once-in-a-decade count is met with severe consequences befitting such an egregious crime.”

American households are due to begin receiving census forms to fill out from the Census Bureau anytime between Thursday and March 20, while the official Census Day is April 1. The 2020 census marks the first time Americans will have the option of filling out the census online.