Bush faces early test on census sampling data
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect George W. Bush will face an early test on whether to allow the U.S. Census Bureau to issue data adjusted by use of statistical sampling to correct for an expected undercount of minorities, civil rights leaders said Wednesday.
The Census Bureau will issue its first results from the 2000 census next week but they will be raw data collected in the field. The bureau intends to issue a revised head count in February, adjusted using statistical sampling techniques.
But Bush or his new commerce secretary -- he was expected to nominate his chief campaign fundraiser Don Evans for the position -- could block the release of that data.
The census data is crucial because it is used for drawing the boundaries of congressional districts within states as well as state legislative districts. It is also used as a basis for distributing billions of dollars of federal funds.
Black, Hispanic and other minority communities believe their numbers have been undercounted in the census and that statistical sampling is critical to redress the balance.
The outgoing Clinton administration supported using sampling but Republicans have opposed it and Bush has said he believed the door-to-door head count was more accurate. Barbara Arnwine of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law told a news conference that with anger in the black community already running high over the way the Nov. 7 presidential election was settled, community leaders regarded the census issue a test of Bush's intentions.
"There is incredible anger in the African-American community at the events of Nov. 7. This issue of the census is absolutely important," she said.
Civil rights leaders headed by Jesse Jackson have complained that a disproportionate number of black votes were not counted in Florida partly because many blacks voted in districts with old and inefficient voting machines that did not function properly.
Marisa Demeo of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund said the 1990 census missed 5 percent of Hispanics and the 2000 census also undoubtedly missed a disproportionate number of Hispanics and other minorities.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that scientific sampling could not be used to reapportion House seats among the 50 states but left open the possibility of using sampling to redraw political boundaries within states.
Wade Henderson, director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, called the question of whether to allow statistical sampling "one of the most important civil rights issues facing the Bush administration."
Karen Narasaki of the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium said politicians who defended the use of less accurate data were disregarding the rights of Asian Americans and other minorities.
"This is an important opportunity for Bush to demonstrate fairness and inclusiveness," she said.
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