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Possible flaws not enough for state to contest census

Officials say they will likely accept the "raw count.'' Critics claim that would leave many minorities uncounted.

By ALICIA CALDWELL

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 7, 2001


Florida likely will not challenge a decision announced Tuesday by President Bush's administration to use the actual census "head count" for congressional redistricting, officials said.

"Our initial reaction is that we are probably going to accept the commerce secretary's decision," said Scott McPherson, who headed up Gov. Jeb Bush's effort to ensure an accurate census count of Floridians.

McPherson said the fact that the governor's brother is the president played no part in the governor's disinclination to challenge the numbers.

Using so-called unadjusted numbers means the population count would not be statistically manipulated to account for people census workers were unable to reach.

Estimates show 3.3-million people, mostly minorities, were missed nationwide. The estimate for the so-called undercount in Florida was unavailable Tuesday.

"One thing I haven't seen that I've been trying to get my hands on are statistics that say what the projected undercount is in Florida," McPherson said.

Nevertheless, McPherson added that Florida's population numbers already have given the state two new congressional seats -- one more than expected. And since the Census Bureau has released information hinting that Florida's undercount is better than it was 10 years ago, in which an estimated 250,000 residents went uncounted, there is little to be gained from challenging the numbers and a potential for loss.

"One of the concerns we've always had with statistical adjustment is that it can subtract people as well as add people," McPherson said.

On Tuesday, Commerce Secretary Don Evans agreed with a Census Bureau recommendation that the initial, raw count provided the most nearly accurate snapshot of America.

Democrats and civil rights groups had called for the use of a second, separate population tally statistically adjusted to protect against the undercount.

But supporters of adjustment had expected Evans' decision following the bureau's recommendation last week. It may quiet -- but not end -- a long political dispute between Democrats and Republicans over whether, and how, to count missed Americans.

The first numbers are to be released state-by-state this week.

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