Barr's blog goes on to state that census workers can demand access to individual living quarters to count residents and collect statistics, and that any owner, landlord or agent who refuses to grant that access can be fined $500. Citizens, he adds, can also be fined for failing to answer the "increasingly intrusive" questions on the census.
The only true statement in the above summary of what Barr wrote is that the fine for failing to cooperate with the decennial census count is $500. The rest of the summary, and the blog entry itself, is either twisted out of shape or grossly exaggerated.
The section of the Federal law governing the census does state that landlords and owners must give census workers access to apartment buildings, hotels, rooming houses, and similar facilities (including gated communities by inference), or provide the names of residents inside them, upon request, with a $500 fine for any owner who refuses to do either. The law does not permit, nor does the Census Bureau instruct, census workers to enter apartments or other dwellings in the absence of the inhabitants. In fact, census takers are trained not to enter residences even when the residents invite them in. The fine -- $25 at the time of the first census in 1790, $500 now -- is almost never levied against anyone.
As for that "increasingly intrusive" Census form: The 2010 Census mail-in questionnaire is the shortest in several decades -- only 10 questions -- and the questionnaire administered by enumerators who visit addresses in person contains only two questions more. In either case, the whole process takes just 10 minutes -- hardly an onerous burden. The "long Census form" of past decades has been replaced by the annual American Community Survey, which asks a sample of the public for more detailed information about their residences and habits.
And lest anyone worry about this information getting into the hands of the police, the IRS, immigration officials, or an overzealous insurance salesman, the law also forbids the Census Bureau from disclosing any information that might identify an individual for 72 years after the completion of the survey. Any Census employee who discloses, or even leaves lying about where an unauthorized person could view by accident, any material that could personally identify someone is fired without recourse.
In short, Barr's characterization of the census and the people who administer it couldn't be more wrong. How do I know this? Because I am one of those enumerators currently knocking on doors all across America and have been trained in the proper procedures, a process all Census employees must undergo.
Written by Sandy Smith