- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 20, 2001

While Michael Wayne Anderson was living in Venezuela as a Mormon missionary, he held a Utah driver's license, maintained his status as a registered voter and paid taxes on his stock dividends.
But that wasn't good enough for the Census Bureau, which failed to count Mr. Anderson as a U.S. citizen in the 2000 census. The bureau's decision to count overseas military and government personnel but not religious workers meant that Utah, which had some 14,000 Mormon missionaries living abroad, fell short of a fourth House seat by a scant 856 persons.
Mr. Anderson, who returned home to Orem, Utah, in May after a two-year mission, has joined Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt, state legislative leaders and the state's congressional delegation in suing the Census Bureau to wrest back the seat that otherwise would go to North Carolina.
"I thought, 'I pay taxes, I vote, I feel like I participate as a full citizen. In every other way, I'm a citizen and I should be counted,' " said Mr. Anderson, 21, a sophomore at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. "The IRS could find me, so I think the Census Bureau could."
To Mr. Anderson, it's a question of basic fairness, but to the bureau, it's a matter of enforcing the rules. The instructions for the decennial count stated that federal and military employees would be tallied but made no such provision for missionaries, and state leaders had ample opportunity to object to the rules before the count, say census officials.
"The rules were set before the census was taken, and they should not be changed at this late date," said North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who has intervened in the lawsuit to protect the North Carolina seat.
North Carolina was credited with 18,360 military and civil employees living abroad, while Utah had 3,545. The Utah lawsuit argues that the Census Bureau should include both military workers and missionaries, which would enable Utah, with its 14,124 missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to overtake North Carolina.
"This suit is to reclaim fairness and protect our constitutional right to representation," said Mr. Leavitt, who believes the current count makes Utah "the least proportionally represented state in the union."
A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City will hear the case on March 20. Utah won a preliminary victory when the clerk of the House agreed to delay certification of the 2000 census until after a court ruling.
Still, persuading the court to change a census count after the fact is an uphill struggle. Even Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican, has called the lawsuit "a long shot."
Working in Utah's favor, say state officials, is the Census Bureau's history of inconsistent counting methods. From 1910 to 1940, families were able to count their adult children serving as missionaries because of the broad wording of the census questionnaire, said Ray Hintze, chief of the Utah attorney general's civil department.
From 1950 to 1960, the census failed to include anyone living abroad, including military personnel. In 1970, the census included overseas military personnel for the first time to take into account the Vietnam War, then dropped them in 1980 and included them again in 1990.
In 1990, Massachusetts sued over the bureau's changing treatment of the military, but lost when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the on-again, off-again count was not arbitrary. That decision cost Massachusetts a House seat, which went instead to Washington.
In the case of missionaries, Utah officials argue there is no compelling reason, such as war, to include them in some counts and drop them in others. "There ought to be a firm rule that doesn't bend to the political winds," said Mr. Hintze.
Utahans argue that overseas soldiers and missionaries have strong similarities. Both are living abroad for a defined period of time, and both generally maintain ties to their home states. Because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints keeps detailed records of its missions, both groups are easy to track, said Mr. Anderson.
"As a missionary, everybody knows where I am and everyone knows when I'm coming back. The logic behind counting the military is that everyone knows where they are, but the church also keeps very good records of its missionaries," he said.
The bureau has agreed to conduct a feasibility study on how best to conduct the 2010 census, which will include another look at the missionary issue.

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