Is It Against The Law To Skip the U.S. Census?
By now, some of you have already received notice from the United States Census Bureau requesting that you take the time to answer their questions. If you haven’t yet received anything, expect a packet soon. The Census Bureau projects that every U.S. home will receive an invitation to participate on April 1, which also happens to be Census Day.
The Census is an easy process that doesn’t take that much time, but for many busy people, even this simple task is a lot to handle. So what happens if you fail to accomplish this task? Is it against the law to skip the Census?
What is the U.S. Census?
Every 10 years, the U.S. Constitution requires a headcount of every person living in the country, regardless of age, immigration status, or type of residency, according to the Michigan 2020 Census website. All people are counted, including those living in homes, apartments, college dorms, and even in shelters and prisons.
Why is the Census important?
- Completing the Census is important because it determines funding for local communities and essential services, shapes congressional representation, determines legislative districts, and more.
- Residents use the Census to support community initiatives involving legislation, quality-of-life, and consumer advocacy.
- Businesses use Census Bureau data to decide where to build factories, offices, and stores and create jobs.
- Local government officials use the Census to ensure public safety and plan new schools and hospitals.
- Real estate developers and city planners use the Census to design new homes and improve neighborhoods.
- Genealogy researchers use census data to find ancestors.
Is it against the law to skip filling out the Census?
Yes, it is a federal crime to skip the Census or to provide false information intentionally. Federal law provides that any person who refuses to answer or willfully neglects to answer any of the census questions shall be fined a maximum of $100, or a maximum of $500 if the person gives false information. Few people are prosecuted for failing to participate in the Census, but that doesn’t mean you should skip this crucial civic duty. Your community benefits from your participation, so don’t forget to fill out those forms, either on paper or online.
For more than 45 years, the Sterling Heights law firm of O’Reilly Rancilio has advised and represented municipalities and school districts in southeast Michigan. Our attorneys understand the value the Census has on the local communities and encourage everyone to participate. For information on our firm, call 586-726-1000 or visit our website.