- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2001

On Thursday, the U.S. Census Bureau began distributing the minute details of the 2000 census to the states for the purpose of redrawing legislative boundaries. Thus begins the decennial redistricting process that will play a major role in determining which party controls not only the U.S. House of Representatives but also the various state legislative bodies across the nation.
From the first census in 1790 through the 20th census in 1980, there seemed to be virtually unanimous agreement about how the once-a-decade counting should be conducted: It should be determined by "actual enumeration," which was construed to mean a person-by-person head count. For the 1990 census, however, the Democratic Party began agitating for an "adjusted count," which would make use of statistical sampling to change the outcome of the "actual enumeration." Backed by some experts in the Census Bureau, Democrats argued that minorities, who disproportionately voted for Democrats, tended to be undercounted. Meanwhile, wealthy households the sort that owned two houses and generally voted for Republicans tended to be overcounted. A sample survey conducted after the 1990 house-by-house head count indicated a net undercount of 4 million out of a total population of 248 million. Subsequently, the administration of George W. Bush's father overruled the Census Bureau's recommendation that the sample results be used to change the head count, and the courts upheld the decision.
Still the controversy continued. Experts in the Census Bureau generally supported the Democrats' position. The only thing the two parties themselves agreed on was that the ultimate decisions would likely affect more than a dozen, and as many as 25, House seats or more than enough to determine which party controlled today's closely divided House in 2002 and thereafter.
Since then, however, another panel of Census Bureau experts all career civil servants has recommended against using the sampling survey's adjusted data, which indicated a net undercount of 3.3 million in the 2000 head count of 281 million. It seems that another approach, based on vital statistics, estimated a 2000 population of 279 million, suggesting that the head count produced an overcount of 2 million. The committee of census experts was "unable, based on the data and other information currently available, to conclude that the adjusted data are more accurate for use in redistricting," acting Census Director William Barron Jr. informed Secretary of Commerce Don Evans in an extensive report filed by the committee.
Suddenly, and unexpectedly, the experts in the Census Bureau have sided with the position asserted by Republicans, making a Democratic lawsuit over the census extremely unlikely to succeed. As Rep. Dan Miller, the Florida Republican who heads the census subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee, declared in a press release trumpeting the Census Bureau's recommendation, which Mr. Evans endorsed, "Game. Set. Match. The American people win." Once again, it's time for the Democrats to "move on."

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