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
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
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