Southern Californians Are Receiving GOP Mailers That Look Like Census Forms

Southern Californians are receiving mailers from the RNC that look a lot like 2020 Census forms. (Screenshot of Republican National Committee mailer)

Throughout Southern California, residents are getting mailers from the Republican National Committee that look an awful lot like official Census 2020 forms, setting off alarm bells for Congressional Democrats.

The RNC mailers are labeled as "2020 Congressional District Census" and include a questionnaire and urgent instructions: "When you are finished answering your Census Document, please return it within the next 7 days to ensure accurate tabulation and dependable results."

But they are not census documents — in fact, households won't begin receiving official U.S. Census Bureau mail until March.

Both U.S. Reps. Gil Cisneros, D-Yorba Linda, and Katie Porter, D-Irvine have warned constituents to read the fine print: At the end of the questionnaire, it says the mailer was paid for by the RNC, and provides information on how to make a contribution.

Many of the questions on the RNC mailers carry an obvious political slant: for example, whether the national media "has a strong bias against all things Donald Trump and Republican" and whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the "Democrat-controlled House are holding President Trump's agenda hostage."

Still, there have been reports of people mistaking the RNC mailers for actual census forms because of their strong resemblance.

"It's not appropriate for any political party to try to hijack the brand of the United States Census for their own political gain," Porter said.

The problem came to Porter's attention last year when people in California and beyond started posting stories on social media of how older loved ones were being duped into thinking the RNC mailers were actual census forms.

The real thing: What actual 2020 Census forms look like. (Screenshot of 2020 Census forms)

In recent months, Porter has complained to the Census Bureau and asked the U.S Postal Service to look into possible mail fraud.

Porter said she's also working with Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, the chair of the House Oversight Committee who sponsored 2010 legislation called Prevent Deceptive Census Look Alike Mailings Act. The law, which Porter said may need to be updated, was a response to census-style mailings from the RNC a decade ago.

(Screenshot from Rep. Katie Porter's Twitter account)

Porter said she was further disturbed when President Trump's re-election campaign recently sent out texts urging recipients to complete a "census survey."

LAist/KPCC reached out to the Republican National Committee and Trump's re-election campaign. A spokeswoman for the campaign responded in an email Thursday that the mailers are clearly marked as coming from the RNC.

Cisneros, who recently got a complaint about the RNC mailer from a constituent in Fullerton, said that the committee is acting with a "lack of integrity."

"It might not be illegal but it doesn't mean that it's the right thing to do," Cisneros said.

Cisneros said his district, the 39th, is largely Latino and Asian American — two groups with historically lower rates of census participation. He fears the confusing RNC mailers will only worsen the situation.