District challenges its 2010 Census count

August 10, 2011

The District of Columbia, by most measures, had a fabulous 2010 Census.

The official count ratified the notion that Washington is a growing, dynamic city, with the population ticking up over the previous decennial count for the first time since 1950.

But the numbers could be better. The District last month joined at least 47 other jurisdictions in lodging an official challenge to its census count. Official documents indicate that the city is the largest polity to do so, but there were reports on Wednesday that New York City has also filed a challenge.

The city successfully challenged its 2005 estimate upward by more than 31,000. City planning director Harriet Tregoning said not to expect such a big boost this time.

The issue isn’t a massive under­count, Tregoning said, “just that there’s numbers that are nonsensical.”

“There probably is an undercount, but it’s not substantial,” she added.

The city has identified 549 census blocks where counts appear to be in error. For instance, some folks are counted as living on tracts where there simply are no residences — a median on Massachusetts Avenue NW. In other cases, census data don’t match the District’s housing records.

The errors, Tregoning said, could cause more errors down the road, whether in redrawing lines for voting precincts or drafting federal grant applications.

“Accuracy is important for a lot of things,” she said.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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