Judge rejects cities' appeal for census revision Undercount cheated many, cities argued

April 14, 1993|By New York Times News Service

A federal judge has dealt a final rebuff to a coalition of th nation's major cities seeking to force an adjustment of the 1990 census to make up for the acknowledged undercount of more than 5 million people, many of them black or Hispanic.

In a decision released yesterday, Judge Joseph M. McLaughlin of the U.S. District Court in New York said the Bush administration's commerce secretary, Robert S. Mosbacher, had not acted arbitrarily or capriciously in 1991 when he refused to adjust the 1990 population count to include those who, according to the Census Bureau's original estimates, were missed.

The bureau later lowered its estimates, figuring that the total number of people missed was closer to 3 million.

In his decision, Judge McLaughlin wrote: "The question is whether the secretary's decision not to adjust is so beyond the pale of reason as to be arbitrary or capricious. That far I cannot go."

The adjustment question, and its potential effect in determining the shape and size of city wards, state legislative districts and congressional districts provoked a lengthy tug-of-war between largely Democratic city governments and the Republican administration.

The contest was equal parts statistics and politics. The suit was begun by New York City, Los Angeles, Houston and Dade County, Fla., and many political observers believed that most of the dozens of cities who eventually joined them would have increased their political power by being able to send a few more legislators to their state capitals or by retaining a congressional district that otherwise could have been lost.

The cities argued that adjustment was simple fairness, that every resident of the country should be counted and that the government should make statistical amends if it could not do so.

Democratic mayors argued that the largely poor and minority populations of the cities were being deliberately shortchanged by a Republican administration.

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