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House panel passes bill meant to stop census misinformation

June 15, 2022 GMT
FILE - Residents have begun receiving the U.S. Census Bureau's request for information receiving letters with a census identification number to answer questions about their households online. U.S. Bureau officials said Friday, May 6, 2022, they are ready to start examining changes that would combine race and ethnic questions and add a Middle Eastern and North African category on the 2030 census questionnaire, but they're waiting on another federal office to start the conversation. (John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register via AP, File)
FILE - Residents have begun receiving the U.S. Census Bureau's request for information receiving letters with a census identification number to answer questions about their households online. U.S. Bureau officials said Friday, May 6, 2022, they are ready to start examining changes that would combine race and ethnic questions and add a Middle Eastern and North African category on the 2030 census questionnaire, but they're waiting on another federal office to start the conversation. (John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register via AP, File)
FILE - Residents have begun receiving the U.S. Census Bureau's request for information receiving letters with a census identification number to answer questions about their households online. U.S. Bureau officials said Friday, May 6, 2022, they are ready to start examining changes that would combine race and ethnic questions and add a Middle Eastern and North African category on the 2030 census questionnaire, but they're waiting on another federal office to start the conversation. (John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register via AP, File)
FILE - Residents have begun receiving the U.S. Census Bureau's request for information receiving letters with a census identification number to answer questions about their households online. U.S. Bureau officials said Friday, May 6, 2022, they are ready to start examining changes that would combine race and ethnic questions and add a Middle Eastern and North African category on the 2030 census questionnaire, but they're waiting on another federal office to start the conversation. (John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register via AP, File)
FILE - Residents have begun receiving the U.S. Census Bureau's request for information receiving letters with a census identification number to answer questions about their households online. U.S. Bureau officials said Friday, May 6, 2022, they are ready to start examining changes that would combine race and ethnic questions and add a Middle Eastern and North African category on the 2030 census questionnaire, but they're waiting on another federal office to start the conversation. (John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register via AP, File)

A U.S. House committee approved a bill Wednesday that would outlaw the distribution of fake or misleading materials resembling census forms or other materials that could prevent people from participating in the nation’s head count.

The Democratic-controlled House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent the measure to the House floor with the aim of stopping the spread of misinformation related to the once-a-decade census. Violators would be receive civil penalties.

Months before the most recent census started in March 2020, the Republican National Committee sent out mailers that mimicked the look of a U.S. census form and solicited donations for President Donald Trump’s reelection. At the time, the Republican National Committee said the mailers were clearly marked as being from the GOP.

Officials in Montana issued a warning about the mailers, saying they could confuse people into thinking they had filled out the census form when they hadn’t done so.

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“No one should use the census to confuse or deceive people for any reasons,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York who chairs the oversight committee.

Republicans on the committee said the legislation was unnecessary since there are already laws that criminalize fraud.

“It’s duplicative and unnecessary,” said U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, a Republican from South Carolina.

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Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP