Article by R.T. Briles
Curator, Briles Information Network
Earlier this week I was listening to Glenn Beck on the radio who was coming out of a commercial break. [My choices were Neal Bortz, Beck, or the four-in-a-row local music stations]. I left the dial sitting on Beck as he was raving about the 2010 Census, which of course caught my attention since I kinda like that genealogy stuff ya know.
Anyone who listens to Beck understands his talking points and his ability to raise a crisis, laugh about it, and move on to the next topic. After the continuous commercial plugs, constant interruptions, and his wife on the phone, Beck finally conveyed his complaint about the pending census which will arrive to all of us within the next few weeks. Beck let everyone in America know (he is the “3rd Most Listened to Show”--his words not mine) that he was not going to fill out the 2010 Census. Beck insists that the 2010 Census contains too many invasive questions and his privacy will be compromised if he completes the form.
Now anyone who has met me or has read my writing about privacy rights understands that I'm an ultra-conservative Republican. Protector of the Constitution and adamant about our protecting our rights as citizens of our great land. Could Beck's argument be centered around the privacy issue or is it because of the Obama Factor?
If you remember one of the first acts President Obama (within first three weeks) did was to transfer the oversight of the 2010 census from the Department of Commerce to the White House, i.e. Rahm Emanuel. Certainly this raised a few eyebrows and set off a firestorm in the GOP. What we have learned so far in this administration the actions are all about power and control, not about counting numbers. Some insisted that ACORN would be playing a vital role in the process of collecting census data, however this has been dispelled by Census Director Robert M. Groves. In June of 2009 Rep. Michele Bachmann echoed Beck's comments by refusing to fill out the census and believes the upcoming census to be "very intricate" and "very personal" and expresses concerns about ACORN's involvement in the data collection. Rep. Bachmann references the United States Constitution, which I will dive into in the next paragraph. Let it be known here that I believe the actions of the President is about total power and control, from the banks, the auto industry, to our health care system. But should the “Obama Factor” persuade you in fulfilling your obligation as a citizen?
OK, here comes the short history lesson for this article. Article I, Section 2 of our constitution reads: “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.” The purpose of the census is to apportion the number of seats in the House of Representatives and derived from that, along with two senators from each state, the number of electors to the Electoral College. Simple eh? If you take a look at the 2010 Census, there are only ten questions with the first one satisfying Article 1 Section 2: “How many people were living or staying at this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2010?” Being the “ultra-conservative” Republican I' am you think my form would have one check and the rest of the boxes unchecked. Beck and Bachmann will probably line their kitty litter box with the Census form, ignoring the threat of a fine by those pesky door knockers (The census even wants a telephone number if you forget a box). But let's look at the 2010 Census and see if any of the questions look familiar to you...the genealogist.
1.How many people were living or staying at this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2010?
2.Were there any additional people here April 1, 2010 that you didn't include in Question 1?
3.Is this house, apartment, or mobile home--(it asks if either is owned, has a mortgage, or is free and clear from same, has a rent or is occupied without rent.
4.What is your telephone number?
5.What is the First and Last Name of everyone living in this residence?
6.What is the person's sex?
7.What is the person's age and date of birth?
8.Is the person Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?
9.What is the person's race?
10.Does anyone sometimes live or stay somewhere else?
Now looking at this list I have highlighted the ones that are questionable, but the rest are innocuous. Take a look at the image below from the 1900 census. As you can see the “innocuous” questions were asked then just like today. In fact, most or all of these questions have been asked by the government since 1790.
Sec. 221. Refusal or neglect to answer questions; false answers:
(a) Whoever, being over eighteen years of age, refuses or willfully neglects, when requested by the Secretary, or by any other authorized officer or employee of the Department of Commerce or bureau or agency thereof acting under the instructions of the Secretary or authorized officer, to answer, to the best of his knowledge, any of the questions on any schedule submitted to him in connection with any census or survey provided for by subchapters I,II, IV, and V of chapter 5 of this title, applying to himself or to the family to which he belongs or is related, or to the farm or farms of which he or his family is the occupant, shall be fined not more than $100.
As a amateur genealogist I value the power of the census. The census has solved numerous issues during difficult research periods and corroborated other sources such as death records and obituaries. As a conservative I also value my privacy and the desire to protect my identity when I'm still on this planet. The current system allows public viewing of the United States Census seventy-two years after the process takes place. In short, we still have two years left before we can view the 1940 census. If the 2010 Census, in it's short form, mirrors the census from the 1800's I believe the privacy argument is flawed if the same or even more information is provided when you send in that yearly 1040 Tax Form?
In closing, I don't believe the White House has ACORN waiting around the corner to slap that $100 fine if you fail to answer the census in its entirety. Glenn Beck will answer at least question one, which is mandated by the Constitution. If you are reading this article then you have some interest in genealogy and the preservation of family history. The census is a valuable research tool and your privacy is protected by the laws in place. The 2010 census will not be available to the public until 2082. Hopefully, by then, our great land will be returned back to the it's people.
Sources: Image provided by United Census: 1900
2010 Census: http://2010.census.gov/2010census/