Chris Graham: American Community What?

Ever heard of the American Community Survey? I hadn’t either, until I got the first of two threatening letters in the mail from the Census Bureau.

“You are required by U.S. law to respond to this survey,” the letter read, as did its followup.

“This survey” is a 28-page survey that took me about a half-hour to fill out when I finally decided that it would be better for me to fill it out than risk whatever penalty of law would come down upon me.

That decision came after the second letter and some research that indicated to me that the worst I would face for not sending the survey back in was a run of phone calls from a Census flunky and maybe a doorstep visit or two.

My first instinct was to say out loud: “I’ll take care of this bullshit. I don’t have to fill out anything I don’t want to. This is still America.”

Turns out it’s not, and in fact you do have to fill out the survey, and so it is that I told the federal government that I indeed have running water. And that, among other things, I am an employee of an independently owned for-profit business.

What I’m sure will get me a phone call or visit from the Census was my insistence at answering the questions about what county I live in by scribbling “none; Virginia has independent cities.” We’re the only state in the Union that has independent cities; I don’t expect the $10-an-hour bureaucrats who will mark up my survey to get that right off.


I hate to pass on bad advice, but I think I will here – if you have the misfortune to get one of these surveys in the mail, damn, just fill it out.

And then send me an e-mail ( We ought to create a Facebook group to get Congress to stop this monumental waste of time from being perpetuated any further.

In the meantime, you can watch me fill out the stupid thing. Hope you have more fun than I did with the pen and paper.

Column by Chris Graham. More from Chris at

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