West Deptford resident Lillian Wolfe went out to get the mail and noticed a blank envelope. Inside it was a document labeled “2020 Congressional District Census.”
It wasn’t until Wolfe delved deeper into the questions — about age, political affiliation and then later questions about social media influence on public opinion, and fear of foreign powers interfering with elections — that she realized it was definitely not the Census.
“I was confused because I knew that the notice that was coming out from the Census Bureau was not coming out until March, and it certainly was not going to look like the old census did being in a big envelope,” Wolfe told NJ Advance Media. “When I opened it up, and I saw that it said ‘census ‘and I saw it was from the Republican Party and I started looking at the questions, I went ‘this is fraudulent.’ This is going to confuse people who will answer, and then in March, when they get the information to go online to answer the census, they are going to think they already did it and not fill out the census.”
Wolfe is a member of Action Together New Jersey which was asked by the Census Bureau to distribute fliers about the upcoming Census and post them in different towns.
The Census, mandated in the Constitution to be conducted every 10 years, is vital because it plays a role in determining federal funding, the number of congressional seats a state sends to the House of Representatives and provides information useful demographic information used by businesses and municipalities.
The document Wolfe received, labeled “Census,” however, is a political survey commissioned by the Republican National Committee, and does not violate any state law or ethics rules.
The surveys are called “FRUGing,” meaning Fundraising Under the Guise of Research, and every political party does it, the Director of Goucher College’s Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center Mileah Kromer told The Baltimore Sun.
The Democratic Party issued a similar survey, asking about foreign and domestic policies as well as views on President Trump, according to a 2019 Baltimore Sun story.
Some are worried that the existence of this document called a “congressional census” will deter others from filling out the national census form.
“With the 2020 Census about to begin, we cannot allow these fake surveys to have a real impact,” said Congressman Donald Norcross (D-1st District). “Reports are coming in from across the country about this apparent scam to raise money and derail the census by deliberately confusing residents. It’s appalling, and I’m working with the Census Bureau and leaders throughout our community to ensure that everyone in South Jersey gets counted and our region gets the resources it deserves.”
While the census will mainly be filled out online, people will have the option to request a paper form. According to the United States Census Bureau website, one of the ways to verify if the document received in the mail is an official Census Bureau form is to see if the enclosed envelope to mail back the questionnaire would be addressed to Jeffersonville, IN, or Phoenix, AZ, locations where the Census Bureau have processing centers.
The Census Bureau said anyone with questions about a census-related document can visit census.gov, and anyone who has received a fictitious or scam related to the census to visit this webpage or call the Census Bureau Customer Service Hotline at 1-800-923-8282.
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