High Court to Rule on Census Sampling
By Joan Biskupic
How the census is conducted has become a contentious political issue between the White House and congressional Republicans because it could affect the boundaries of new congressional and state legislative districts as well as the distribution of billions of dollars in federal funds.
Congressional Republicans contend that, in addition to being patently unlawful, "sampling" is vulnerable to political manipulation. Administration officials and other Democrats counter that the traditional head count method ends up missing millions of people, making statistical sampling more accurate.
Census officials want to combine the results of a traditional head count with a statistical "sample" that relies on information from a representative group to estimate the size and demographic characteristics of Americans who fail to answer questionnaires or are missed in door-to-door surveys. In its brief order yesterday, the Supreme Court set oral arguments for Nov. 30. A decision in Census Bureau vs. House of Representatives is likely by early next year.
The Constitution requires that an "actual enumeration" of the population be done every 10 years, and officials have struggled with how to get an accurate count. After the 1990 census, the Census Bureau estimated that it had missed a net undercount of 4 million people out of 250 million.
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