Republicans Sue to Prevent Sampling
By Barbara Vobejda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 21 1998; Page A06 House Republicans filed a lawsuit in federal court yesterday to prevent the Clinton administration from relying on statistical sampling to complete a national head count when it conducts the 2000 census.
The suit alleges that the plan to use sampling violates the Constitution, which calls for an "actual enumeration" of the population.
The legal challenge is the most recent chapter in an ongoing battle between the administration and congressional Republicans over how the next census should be conducted. The stakes are high because the population figures are used to draw political boundaries and many people believe that control of the House could hinge on which census-taking method is used.
The Census Bureau has argued it can produce the most accurate population figures by combining its traditional counting methods with a statistical sample, which extrapolates information from a random selection of households to reach a total head count.
In the suit filed yesterday, Republicans argued that the use of sampling will cause "direct and concrete injuries" to the interests of the House because the population figures could be manipulated to alter the chamber's political composition. Also, the suit charges, the public will lack confidence in the census results. If the numbers are challenged, House operations could be disrupted.
"This administration is committed to conducting the most accurate census possible," Andrew Pincus, Commerce Department general counsel, said in response to the lawsuit. He argued that sampling has been upheld by previous courts and Justice Department opinions.
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) criticized the suit as "a poor use of tax money and a bad choice for the speaker to oppose an accurate count."
The use of sampling, which has been backed by a National Academy of Sciences panel, is considered likely to add population to cities and other areas that tend to vote Democratic and, as a result, could benefit Democrats more than Republicans.
Earlier this month, the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a conservative public interest law firm based in Atlanta, also filed suit in federal court challenging the plan to use sampling.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company