The Bush administration will release statistically adjusted 2000 Census figures sought in a Democratic lawsuit that contended the numbers would shed light on millions of Americans who were missed or counted twice.
Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said yesterday that the government will not appeal a federal court ruling last month ordering the Census Bureau to release adjusted numbers for every block. The numbers came from a quality-check survey that ultimately found the 2000 Census missed less than 1 percent of the population.
The battle over whether adjusted numbers or figures from the door-to-door count are more accurate has inflamed political passions for decades, and has gone to the Supreme Court twice. Democrats and civil rights groups say adjusted numbers include minorities and poor people who were missed, but Republicans contend they add made-up people for the benefit of Democrats.
Census Bureau officials had refused to release the numbers from the 2000 count, saying they were not reliable enough to use for congressional redistricting or for allocating federal funds. The Supreme Court has ruled that adjusted figures cannot be used to apportion congressional seats among states. But some local and state officials still hope to employ them for redrawing political boundaries or allocating funds controlled by state and local governments.
"This does add a new dynamic to states that are still in court and many cities and counties that have yet to redraw their districts," said Jeffrey M. Wice, a Democratic redistricting lawyer.
Two states -- Montana and Maine -- have not yet redrawn their political districts. Court challenges to redistricting plans are pending in more than a dozen others. Baltimore and New York are among many big cities and counties that have not redistricted their city councils or county boards.
Oregon officials may want to use adjusted numbers in a new round of state legislative redistricting, said Thomas M. Susman, the lawyer who won the verdict last month in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of two Democratic state legislators in Oregon, was based on a Freedom of Information Act request. Depending on what the adjusted data show, he said, "it provides fodder for arguments."
Jessica F. Heinz, an assistant city attorney in Los Angeles, which sought adjusted numbers in a separate case, said her city "would certainly use the numbers when we apply for state or federal funds." Localities might also use the figures for planning purposes, to pinpoint local needs, she said.
But there would be many hurdles to using the figures, advocates said. Most states have held elections based on new districts, and it could be a hard sell to argue for going through a contentious redistricting again. The adjusted figures would not carry as much weight as the official count, and Republicans could challenge their use.
Rep. David Joseph Weldon (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's census panel, said: "The statistical experts at the Census Bureau have no faith in these numbers. . . . Any attempt to use these numbers would be equally flawed."
Census Bureau spokeswoman LaVerne Collins said yesterday that she did not know how long it would take to release the numbers.