- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 15, 2001

Census Bureau officials yesterday released more evidence that last spring's census was the best ever, but could not head off continued political feuding over census results and bureau operations.

At a renewal of oversight hearings by the House subcommittee that oversees census operations, acting Census Director William G. Barron reported the bureau had "completed every planned operation on schedule, achieved higher-than-expected mail response rates, met … our hiring goals, implemented a highly efficient and accurate data-processing system" and improved "overall coverage" of the population.

Mr. Barron also released preliminary figures showing the head count had "a significant reduction" in the undercount of blacks, Hispanics and Indians on reservations.

It is estimated, for instance, that the number of blacks missed dropped from the 4.57 percent a decade ago to somewhere between 1.6 and 2.73 percent in the 2000 tally. For Hispanics, the number dropped from 1990's 5 percent to between 2.22 and 3.48 percent. And for American Indians, the undercount went from 12.22 percent to between 2.77 percent and 6.71 percent.

The numbers are a factor in the political argument over the next step in the census process the preparation of numbers used for redrawing voting districts across the nation.

Democrats favor altering or "adjusting" the overall census figures according to the error determined by a process called "sampling." Statisticians argue this method is the best way to eliminate errors from certain residents not being counted and others more than once.

Republicans generally object to that process. They argue it is unreliable, probably unconstitutional and would work against their party. It is presumed that eliminating the undercount would increase the count of minorities, renters and urban dwellers, who tend to vote Democratic.

The Census Bureau must decide by early March whether sampling is more accurate than the raw count, and whether the adjusted figures should be used as the basis for redrawing political district lines and for redistributing more than $185 billion in federal funds.

But the Bush administration could reverse the Census Bureau's decision. President Bush has not disclosed whether he supports sampling.

White House spokeswoman Clair Bucham said yesterday the issue was still under consideration by the Commerce Department and gave no timetable for any decision.

Rep. Dan Miller, the Florida Republican who chairs the House Government Reform Committee's census subcommittee, heaped praise on the bureau for its achievements.

He called the bureau's work "remarkable" and said Census 2000 was "the most accurate and inclusive census in our nation's history." Then he slammed Democrats for "political rhetoric surrounding the census [that] threatens to taint the entire effort."

He said his political foes "resort to cheap shots, race-baiting and name-calling."

However, Mr. Miller's basic point which was fiercely resisted by subcommittee member Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat was that the census was so good and resulting population numbers so sound there is no need for adjusting the count.

Mrs. Maloney, the subcommittee's former ranking minority member and Mr. Miller's chief antagonist, warned Census officials to beware of "the hugs and kisses you are receiving on this Valentine's Day from former critics."

She argued for the necessity to adjust the count, declaring that not doing so "denies liberty and disenfranchises the unrepresented for 10 years." She called the issue "the most important civil rights issue of this decade."

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