The RNC's Political Mailer Looks A Lot Like A Census Form. And It's Totally Legal.

Oct 4, 2019

From Texas Standard:

Next year, U.S. residents will be asked to fill out the 2020 Census. A misleading political document being mailed out now could confuse some recipients.

The Republican National Committee, or RNC, sent mailers that strongly resemble official Census documents. Their purpose is to gather voter information and solicit donations. The document inside the envelope reads "2019 Congressional District Census." But because the outer envelope does not include the word "census" and the document states that it is commissioned by the RNC, mailing the form is entirely legal. 

Texas Standard producer/reporter Michael Marks received one of the misleading documents at his home.

“At first glance it looks like a form that could be related to the Census, it has all these different questions asking about personal information and your positions on various issues,” Marks says. “Once you start to read it, it’s clearly a political document.”

While the RNC has yet to respond to Marks' request for comment about its campaign mailer, Brendan Fisher, director of the Federal Reform Program at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit organization that monitors elections says the confusion is intentional. 

“There’s a reason why these kind of tactics are used and it’s because they often times work,” Fisher said. “Even though political operatives might run the risk of appearing misleading to many voters, it appears that in many cases the benefits outweigh the costs.”

Texans will likely see a rise in political mail as the state becomes more competitive than it has been in the past, during the 2020 election.

“Fisher told me he expects Texas voters to be ‘bombarded’, was the word he used, with mailers misleading and otherwise all the way through election day,” Marks says.

The RNC is not the only political organization that will use the occasion of the Census to gather information. The Census Bureau warns about fraudulent forms, whose senders seek to steal personal information. Elderly people who are politically active, and who are more likely to use the mail, are at highest risk of Census fraud. 

Written by Libby Cohen.