Important information regarding the 2020 Census
We are aware of mailers labeled "2019 Congressional District Census" allegedly sent by the RNC to at least five states thus far (California, Louisiana, Montana, Ohio, and Washington State).
Although the forms look nothing like a real census form, the partisan nature of the content, request for payment, and the labeling of "census" is concerning, as it could cause confusion in many communities.
This sort of misinformation campaign is not new, however given the political climate around the census, we want to be careful not to counter the misinformation with messaging that would discourage the public from participating in the actual census next year. Our goal is to inform - not instill fear or anger.
Please share this guidance with your local Leagues and members working on the census.
Our message recommendation is to use straight forward facts to provide accurate information without emotion:
The only official U.S. census form comes directly from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Anything solicited prior to April 2020 is not part of the U.S. census.
Any survey by an outside group mentioning the census is not part of the official U.S. Census.
Anyone who has participated in these surveys should still plan to participate in the U.S. census starting in March 2020.
For additional LWV talking points about the 2020 Census, see Census Talking Points (https://www.lwv.org/league-management/talking-points-templates/talking-points-2020-census) and the Census Action Kit (https://www.lwv.org/league-management/voting-rights-tools/census-action-kit) on the League Management Site.
Our coalition partners at the Leadership Conference have provided the following recommended actions if you see these mailers in your community:
1. Report the deceptive mailer to your non-partisan state/local Complete Count Committee, your area 2020 Census Partnership Specialists and your regional or Area Census Office (if/when applicable) and urge them to release a clarifying statement. (For example Independent Record: State warns of Republican National Committee mailer imitating Census survey)
2. Elevate the mailer for your congressional representatives (U.S. House and Senate members), in order to raise the visibility of the problem and to spur action with the U.S. Postal Service (which has authority over this issue). For your reference, last week Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Lacy Clay, and Frank Pallone sent a letter asking the Postmaster General to investigate the fake census mailer. The Deceptive Mailing Prevention and Enforcement Act prohibits private entities (nonprofit or for-profit) from using logos, slogans, return addresses, and the like that would reasonably confuse the recipient into thinking it was official federal government mail.
3. Educate your community and clarify that this is not an official mailing from the U.S. Census Bureau or related in any way to the upcoming 2020 Census. The Census Bureau website includes resources on "avoiding frauds and scams" (https://2020census.gov/en/avoiding-fraud.html) that makes clear that the Census Bureau will not ask for money or donations. Consider sharing these resources with your community.
4. If you receive an unknown mailing, please take a photo and email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember to share this guidance with your local Leagues and members working on the census as soon as possible.
Thank you all for your commitment to this work!