For Release: January 25, 1999
Contact: David Almasi at 202/543-4110 or [email protected]
The January 25 U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring the 2000 census be conducted through a person-by-person headcount was applauded by the members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 as a victory for fairness and equality. Project 21 members now implore the Clinton Administration to redouble its preparation efforts and work with Republican leaders in Congress to ensure that next year's population count is as accurate as possible and free of partisan influences.
The Clinton Administration had sought to use an estimation process called "sampling" to determine the numbers and characteristics of as much as 10% of the nation's population in the 2000 census. Proponents of sampling said it would account for previously underrepresented minorities. Critics countered that the Constitution requires an actual headcount and that sampling would be inaccurate and could be abused for partisan purposes. Population data gained from census figures is used to draw federal, state and local voting districts and to determine how and where government money is spent.
In her opinion for the majority, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that existing law "directly prohibits the use of sampling in the determination of population for purposes of apportionment."
Project 21 members support the Supreme Court's ruling because they believe an actual headcount is the only fair and legal way to account for all Americans. While sampling has been pushed as something beneficial for minorities because urban areas are thought to be traditionally undercounted, making up the numbers would pit urban areas against suburban and rural areas, increasing resentment and forever putting true population numbers in doubt. Partisan influences could also corrupt the process to both raise and lower population counts at the whim of the party controlling the process, they say.
"In requiring an actual count of the American people, the Supreme Court is ensuring that each and every American is counted. Sampling would intentionally pass over some citizens in favor of creating 'virtual citizens' elsewhere," said Project 21 member Stuart Pigler of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies in Lansing, Michigan. "Putting together a comprehensive and thorough staff and utilizing administrative files like Medicare and Social Security records can make sure no American is left out in 2000."
Since the Clinton Administration had held up preparations for an actual headcount in 2000 in favor of sampling, Project 21 members are now asking the Clinton Administration to increase its mobilization efforts to ensure an accurate count. Project 21 members also expect Republicans in Congress to honor previous commitments to provide adequate funding for the most accurate headcount possible.
"The Supreme Court just said 'no' to Bill Clinton today," said Project 21 members the Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson of the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny in Los Angeles, California. "How could the American people dare trust this man not to manipulate the 2000 census to create more Democratic congressmen or otherwise favor Democratic interests or interest groups? It is heartening to know that the rule of law still exists in America."
Project 21 has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 pr Project [email protected], or visit Project 21's website at http://www.project21.org.