Resistance and conflicts: census fights with "Reich citizens" and technology

Citizens are currently being asked about the 2022 census.

Resistance and conflicts: census fights with "Reich citizens" and technology

Citizens are currently being asked about the 2022 census. The aim is to collect data that is important, for example, for the distribution of municipal financial equalization. Participation is mandatory, but a union request shows the difficulties.

The Federal Statistical Office has encountered difficulties in collecting the data for the census. Around 200 so-called "Reich citizens" have announced in writing that they want to refuse to take part in the 2022 census. As can be seen from a response by the Federal Government to a parliamentary question by the Union faction, technical problems also occasionally disrupted the process of the survey and the dunning procedure for defaulting respondents.

The interviewers, who ring the doorbell to collect data for the census, had also received tips on how to deal with resistance and conflict situations during training sessions with the state statistical offices. The federal government said: "It was explicitly pointed out that survey officers should not put themselves in danger at any time and that the survey should be stopped if necessary."

The government's response says a telegram group with several thousand members is calling for a boycott. In addition, templates for corresponding letters were posted there and falsely claimed that one did not have to report to the census. "Reich citizens and self-government" doubt the legitimacy of the Federal Republic. They often refuse to pay taxes. The nationally active groups include associations with names such as "German Confederation of States" or "German Kingdom". The Office for the Protection of the Constitution ascribes around 21,000 followers to the scene.

Participation in the census is mandatory. Those who refuse face a fine. The survey began in mid-May. Homeowners have already filled out around 20.7 million questionnaires in the 2022 census, but a lot of feedback is still missing. Therefore, dunning procedures are currently beginning, as the Federal Statistical Office announced on Wednesday in Wiesbaden. In total, all around 23 million owners or administrations of living space should provide information.

The 2022 census is not a classic census like the one last held in Germany in 1987. Rather, as was the case with the 2011 census, data that is already available in the administration, for example at the residents' registration office, is supplemented by the collection of current information. Around 100,000 interviewers interview randomly selected people at their place of residence. A second survey concerns housing and is conducted in writing. There is also a second survey of individual participants, which only serves to ensure the quality of the survey. The publication of all federal and state statistics generated by the 2022 census is planned for November 2023.

In its answer to the questions of the Union parliamentary group, the federal government announced that it was aware of individual cases in which dunning procedures had been initiated against those required to provide information who had already submitted their data. "In a few cases, this was associated with a temporary restriction in the survey support system, which was remedied after it became known," the Federal Ministry of the Interior continued. After complaints about software problems, the Federal Ministry of the Interior admitted in July that "individual functionalities in the software for survey support" had been restricted in certain areas. However, this does not jeopardize the census schedule.

The CDU MP Philipp Amthor announced that the CDU/CSU parliamentary group will insist that all relevant processes after the end of the census and after the evaluation of the results be subjected to a very thorough analysis with all agencies involved. The spokesman for the Union faction for state modernization also finds it problematic that many real estate owners have received further mail with the request for property tax returns parallel to the census. "This is not very citizen-friendly and of course causes confusion for some, especially since the authorities sometimes ask for similar data," he criticized. The federal government should have coordinated the census and property tax collection better.

(This article was first published on Sunday, August 28, 2022.)

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