Honest Census Communications Act – S. 133 and H.R. 5815

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA-18) reintroduced the Honest Census Communications Act (S. 133 and H.R. 5815), legislation that would prohibit anyone from communicating or causing to be communicated “any census-related information by any means, including by means of any covered communication, or to produce any census-related information with the intent that the census-related information be communicated”:

  1. “knowing the census-related information to be materially false”; and
  2. “with the intent to impede or prevent an other person from participating in any census.”

S. 133 and H.R. 5815 would apply to the decennial headcount, the American Community Survey (ACS), the Economic Census and other similar Census Bureau surveys.

Violators would be punished with up to $11,181 in civil penalties, “imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both.”

“Census-related information” means any information, including:

  • “The time, place, or manner of holding any census”; or
  • “The qualifications for, or restrictions on, participation in any census.”

“Covered communication” means any:

  • “Written communication”;
  • “electronic or digital communication, including a communication through a website, application, online forum, social media platform, streaming service, or other means of communications using the internet or a similar communications network”; or
  • “telephonic communication, including any phone call, text message, or other communication sent, received, or transmitted using a wireless or wireline phone or a cellular or other phone network.”

Census disinformation was “everywhere” in 2020, said Schatz, and the Act would “help stop false information from spreading and protect the constitutionally mandated census from any attempts to disrupt it.”

House bill cosponsor Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said she supported the legislation because of concern about “bad actors who purposefully push false information about the Census to discourage participation and skew the results.”

Eshoo said that the Act “ensures that any attempt to intentionally spread lies about the once-in-a-decade count is met with severe consequences befitting this crime.”