EDITORIAL: Census is designed to be secure

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Categories: Editorial, Opinion

Trust.

It’s a word that comes up often these days when it comes to government.

Can we trust the police? Can we trust the new covid vaccine? Can we trust the election will be conducted fairly? Can we trust the post office will be able to deliver absentee ballots on time?

Can we trust that the census will keep my personal information confidential?

The answer to the first few questions is, at best, “maybe, maybe not.”

But when it comes to the census, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

And here’s why: The government needs us to trust it. So they’ll make sure we can.

One of the main reasons people don’t complete the census form or refuse to answer the door when census workers come around is that they don’t trust that the information they provide about their race, ethnic background and number of people in their home will be kept secret.

They expect that the government will use that information to punish them somehow. Immigrants in particular, legal or not, might fear the government will use the information to deport them or members of their families.

It’s a legitimate fear for some.

But when it comes to the census, that fear is unfounded because the greatest beneficiary of it is the government itself and the politicians who run it.

Census counts determine everything from how many congressional representatives each state gets (and therefore how much political cloud they have), to how much aid states get for social programs. In addition, the more federal aid a state gets, the less money state and local politicians need to collect from their taxpayers/voters.

In the federal government, congressional representatives want more for their states to help themselves get re-elected. So the feds, too, have a stake in a secure and complete census.

How do you know if you can trust it? Just remember one thing: Title 13.

That’s the section of federal law that guarantees that information provided for the census will only be used for statistical purposes to determine aid and representation. The law has penalties for those who violate that confidentiality, including fines of up to $5,000 and prison terms of up to five years.

New York needs every one of its residents, citizens and noncitizens, to fill out the census, either online or when a census taker comes around.

It takes only a few minutes. But time is running short. Go to https://2020census.gov/ and fill it out.

Do it today. And trust that your personal information will remain secure.

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