From: Census2000 <Census2000(a)ccmc.org>
Census 2000 Legal Challenges Continue:
Texas Counties File Suit; Democratic Reps Seek Adjusted Numbers
Plus: Hearing Planned on American Community Survey;
Congressional and Administration updates; and more.
Two Texas counties filed a lawsuit on May 10, challenging the accuracy
of their population counts from Census 2000. Cameron and Hidalgo
Counties, located in the Rio Grande Valley, contend the unadjusted
numbers issued in March for their jurisdictions reflect an undercount of
tens of thousands of people and will deprive them of their "fair and
intended share of federal funding and [skew] the allocation of
Cameron County believes its official population count of 335,227 is off
by about 22,000 people; Hidalgo County says its population figure should
be about 56,000 higher than the reported 569,463. The counties claim
that Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans violated the Administrative
Procedures Act by revoking, without notice or a comment period, a
federal rule delegating to the Census Bureau director authority for the
decision on whether to release statistically adjusted census numbers.
They also allege that the Census Bureau's recommendation to release
unadjusted numbers, which the Secretary adopted, was based on "the
mistaken belief that... unadjusted data should be released unless [the
Census Bureau] could conclude to a certainty and beyond doubt that
adjusted data would be more accurate." Applying this "wrong standard"
disregards a Census Act mandate to use statistically adjusted data "if
it is feasible," the plaintiffs contend. The counties also assert that
the disproportionate undercount of Hispanics in the census "arbitrarily
discriminates" among population groups in violation of the
Constitution's equal protection clause.
The plaintiffs asked the court to declare the adjusted numbers to be the
"official census data for federal funding purposes" and to order the
release of the data. The plaintiffs include nearly three dozen cities
located within the two counties, and the County Judges of Cameron and
Hidalgo. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the
Southern District of Texas (Case No. B-01-082).
Secretary Evans and the U.S. Department of Commerce are the named
Democratic Reps go to court for adjusted numbers: Sixteen Democratic
members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government
Reform, which has jurisdiction over the census, filed a lawsuit on May
Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans, to compel release of the
statistically adjusted census population numbers. Rep. Henry Waxman
(D-CA) (the committee's senior Democrat), Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO)
(ranking Democrat on the Census Subcommittee), and Rep. Carolyn Maloney
(D-NY) (a member and former ranking Democrat on the Census Subcommittee)
are leading the legal challenge.
The lawmakers are seeking the adjusted numbers under a 1928 federal
statute, called the "Seven Member Rule," that gives any seven members of
the House Committee on Government Reform special access to federal
records. "There is no valid reason for the Bush Administration to
withhold this data from members of Congress or the public," Rep. Waxman
said in announcing the court action. Rep. Clay accused the
Administration of "playing politics with the census data."
The representatives noted that the unadjusted data released in March
fails to account for more than six million Americans missed in Census
2000 and that the adjusted numbers could be used to allocate more than
$185 billion in federal grants each year. "The American taxpayers paid
for [the adjusted data], they deserve to see it," Rep. Maloney said.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of
California, which recently dismissed a legal challenge by Los Angeles
and other municipalities to Secretary Evans' decision to release
unadjusted census data to the states for redistricting purposes. The
congressional plaintiffs said it is the first lawsuit brought under the
Seven Member Rule.
The Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF), a conservative Atlanta-based
organization, issued a statement calling the lawsuit "a senseless waste
of court time and public money." SLF President Phil Kent said "[t]he
courts have spoken on this matter" and that he was confident the
"misguided band of politicos would lose this battle". SLF spearheaded a
legal challenge to the Census 2000 plan that resulted in a 1999 U.S.
Supreme Court decision barring the use of statistical sampling methods
to derive the population counts for congressional apportionment.
Los Angeles appeals dismissal of adjustment lawsuit: Los Angeles and
several other cities and counties from across the country have asked the
U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to review a lower court's dismissal
of their lawsuit challenging the Commerce Secretary's decision to
release unadjusted census data to the states last March.
In an April 26th decision, U.S. District Court Judge Gary A. Feess ruled
that Secretary Evans' decision did not violate §195 of Title 13, United
States Code (the Census Act) because "the Secretary's actions are
consistent with a permissible construction of the statute." Judge Feess
concluded that "the paramount objective of the Census Act is accuracy in
counting population" and that "substantial evidence supports the Census
Bureau's recommendation against adjustment."
Brian Currey of O'Melveny & Myers, the law firm handling the plaintiffs'
case, said the Appeals Court "will take a fresh look at the statutes and
case law... and we believe it will rule in our favor."
Congressional hearing scheduled: The House Subcommittee on the Census
will hold a hearing on the status of planning for the Census Bureau's
American Community Survey (ACS). The panel will review the survey's
cost, coverage of less populous areas and smaller population groups,
questionnaire content, operational requirements, and other relevant
issues. The hearing is scheduled for June 13, at 2:00 pm, in room 2203
Rayburn House Office Building. The subcommittee has not yet announced a
complete witness list. This is the Census Subcommittee's second
oversight hearing on the ACS; the first was held last summer.
Commerce Under Secretary confirmed: Dr. Kathleen B. Cooper, President
Bush's nominee to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs,
was confirmed by the Senate on May 25. The Under Secretary heads up the
Commerce Department's Economic and Statistics Administration (ESA),
which houses the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Prior to her nomination, Dr. Cooper served as chief economist at Exxon
Senate committee changes expected: Committees and subcommittees in the
United States Senate will likely have new chairpersons and ranking
minority members when Congress reconvenes next week after its Memorial
The anticipated changes will result from Vermont Sen. James Jeffords'
decision to leave the Republican Party and become an Independent, giving
Democrats a 50-49-1 majority in the chamber. In Congress, the majority
party in each chamber holds the chairmanships of all committees and
subcommittees. The anticipated changes in committee leadership
described below are still subject to negotiations between the two
The Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs has jurisdiction over the
Census Bureau's activities and the federal statistical system generally,
and would consider President Bush's nomination for Census Bureau
director. (No subcommittee of this committee has been assigned specific
responsibility for the Census Bureau.) Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT),
currently the committee's senior Democrat, is likely to become chairman,
taking over from Sen. Fred
On the funding side, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) currently chairs the
Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and State, The Judiciary and Related
Agencies, of the Committee on Appropriations, which covers the Census
Bureau (part of the Commerce Department). The current ranking Democrat,
Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-SC) is likely to become chairman.
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