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 MaloneyGovernment watchdog recommends creation of White House cyber director position Top Democrats call for DOJ watchdog to probe Barr over possible 2020 election influence House panel advances bill to ban Postal Service leaders from holding political positions 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 McDanielNational Urban League, BET launch National Black Voter Day Trump officials defend president's coronavirus response amid Woodward revelations Sunday shows - Trump team defends coronavirus response 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 EshooDemocratic chairman says White House blocked FDA commissioner from testifying Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg acknowledges failure to take down Kenosha military group despite warnings | Election officials push back against concerns over mail-in voting, drop boxes Democrat asks intel agencies if they're surveilling members of Congress 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.