Not true. Could I politely ask where you got this very wrong idea? Was it the Republican Congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and her famous interviews on FOX TV and in the Washington Times? I am just curious as to what the sources of bad info are that are misleading people out there. You might have got the bad info from the same source as Bachmann or whatever.
Anyway, this false factoid was exploded by the fact-checkers, who rated it a “pants on fire” falsehood when Bachmann said it. The facts:
Here’s what the Constitution actually says:
“Representation and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers … the actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct.”
So the Constitution itself does not contain any requirement, as Bachmann claims.
We draw your attention to the last clause, “in such a manner as they shall by law direct.” The “they” in that sentence refers to members of Congress. They write laws about the content of the Census and require that people answer the questions.
Even the very first census in 1790 included more than just the question of how many people lived in the household. According to a Census Bureau spokeswoman, the 1790 Census specifically asked about the number of free white males age 16 and over in order to assess the country’s military and industrial potential. That first Census also asked for the race and gender of household residents, and whether they were free or enslaved.
Subsequent Census Acts expanded the number of questions exponentially.
According to Census spokeswoman Stacy Gimbel, these laws came under the authority of the “Necessary and Proper” clause of the Constitution:
“The Congress shall have the power . . . To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.”
Congress’ use of the Census to ask questions well beyond just the number of people has been upheld several times by the Supreme Court, Gimbel said, citing several cases.
What’s more, a law passed by Congress requires people to answer “any of the questions on any schedule submitted to him in connection with any Census” from the U.S. Census.
So what if you don’t?
The law says those who refuse to fill out the entirety of their Census questionnaire or answer questions posed by Census takers could face fines of anywhere from $100 to $500. Honestly, Gimbel said, the U.S. Census doesn’t often enforce those rules.
“It is important to note that Census takers are not seeking to prosecute people; our goal is to gather and return to the public quality information that assures equal representation and determines how billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money is spent by their government,” Gimbel said.