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Posted 13 Sep 2001   For week ended August 31, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 11Sep01

By Paul Carter

Utah Throws Another Punch in Census Fight

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Attorneys for the State of Utah went back into the legal ring before a panel of three federal court judges on August 29th, arguing that a Census Bureau estimating technique referred to as "imputation" is a type of statistical sampling and is therefore prohibited by the Census Act.

The legal effort is the latest attempt by the state to obtain a fourth US House of Representatives seat based on how the 2000 decennial US census was conducted. In that census, by a count of just 857 people, the State of North Carolina was given an additional House seat, which will have 13 in the 2002 election unless the State of Utah's arguments are supported by the US Supreme Court. Previously, in Utah's first legal response to the census outcome, State of Utah attorneys filed a federal suit that questioned why the Census Bureau counted all military personnel serving overseas from North Carolina, but did not allow Utah to count 11,176 of its citizens serving as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. A panel of federal judges ruled against Utah and the state has appealed that decision to the US Supreme Court.

Now, in the August 29th court action, the state is arguing that the Census Bureau process of imputation added 32,457 residents for North Carolina and 5,385 for Utah and that these numbers, and all imputed numbers for all the states, should be thrown out. Imputation occurs in the enumeration process when census takers estimate the number of people in the household based on the number found in similar homes nearby, after making repeated unsuccessful attempts to contact residents of an address or building.

Ray Hintze, chief deputy of the Utah Attorney General says, "We think it is a form of statistical sampling. It's a very unscientific method."

In 1999, the US Supreme Court ruled that the US Constitution requires of the Census Bureau that a count of actual persons be made. According to Tom Lee, a professor of Law at Brigham Young University and a member of the Utah legal team in this lawsuit, the 1999 ruling "means that you have to go out and actually count people, and not make a statistical guess." Utah's legal complaint according to Professor Lee is that the numbers created for imputed households may not have been for households at all. "Some might have been businesses, some might have been storage units," he says.

The stand of the Census Bureau is that the process of imputation is very different from statistical sampling, that it is a technique used as long ago as the 1940 census as well as in more recent decades, and has even previously undergone scrutiny both by courts and by Congress.

Both sides in the current lawsuit acknowledge that whoever loses their argument with the panel of three federal judges will appeal directly to the US Supreme Court, just as Utah has already done when it lost its suit regarding LDS missionaries not being counted. Legal representatives for Utah hope that the appeals of both this case and the earlier one will arrive at the Supreme Court at the same time.

Utah Attorney Hintze is enthusiastic about the state's prospects through the process. "We have the real upper hand with this case. There is considerable likelihood of success, even if it doesn't come at this level."

The three judges hearing the arguments on August 29th were District Judges Dale Kimball and J. Thomas Greene, and Tenth US Circuit Judge Michael Murphy.


Utah shifting focus in fight for 4th seat
Deseret News 28Aug01 T1
By Elyse Hayes: Deseret News staff writer
Attorneys want imputed census numbers dropped

State Takes Another Stab at Disputed Census
Salt Lake Tribune 29Aug01 T1
By Joe Baird: Salt Lake Tribune


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