- The Washington Times - Monday, October 14, 2002

An appeals court ruling last week that the Commerce Department must release adjusted Census 2000 numbers won't mean a big shift in federal grants, but could give ammunition to those pressing for a better count in 2010.
In a unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that federal open records laws require the government to release the adjusted numbers.
Every 10 years the census misses some residents, and this year the undercount is estimated to be more than 3 million. Civil rights advocates say minorities and poor urban residents are most often missed in the census, and that those populations are then shortchanged in government programs that allocate money based on population.
In recent years, the Census Bureau has prepared adjusted numbers, which use statistical formulas to try to account for missed persons. But the Bush administration's Census Bureau refused to release those adjusted numbers this year, saying they had questions about the methodology and final results.
Charles Miller, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said that itt has not decided whether to appeal, though those pushing for the numbers' release say they expect an appeal. The department has 45 days from the date of the ruling to decide.
What use governments could make of those numbers is questionable.
"For the most part it's going to vary," said Eric Rodriguez, director of economic mobility initiative at the National Council of La Raza, which was one of the groups pushing for the numbers' release. "Certainly for the purposes of apportionment, that debate is gone. The issue is whether administrators state and local people are going to use the adjustments. That's a case-by-case basis."
He said in many cases, because the numbers are 2 years old, state and local agencies have newer sources of numbers for their planning and grant purposes.
Hillary Shelton, director of the Washington bureau for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said that many of the federal programs covered Title I education funding, for example are already underfunded and it's "adding insult to injury" to then undercount the people who would benefit from the funds.
But the adjusted numbers are disputed. Commerce Department Secretary Donald L. Evans, when he made the decision to withhold the numbers, pointed to an advisory report that said that there were "some disturbing inconsistencies and possible errors in the methodology."
In 1999 a coalition including interest groups and members of Congress won a Supreme Court ruling that the Constitution requires that actual count, not adjusted numbers, be used in reapportionment, which allots congressional seats to the states based on population.
The Southeastern Legal Foundation was part of that coalition, and its president, Phil Kent, said the statistical models produce wrong numbers.
"We believe in terms of minorities they inflate them they invent minorities in these samples," Mr. Kent said. He said his group sees no problem with releasing the report, but he cautions against groups trying to reopen the reapportionment debate.


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