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Change focus of lawsuit over census, Demos urge

Some Utah Democrats want the state to focus less on getting overseas LDS missionaries counted and more on the accuracy and legal issues of the census count.

Todd Taylor, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party, says the party has an interest in the state's federal legal challenge over the census count lawsuit because state Democratic officials are among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the government.

And while some Utah Democrats are worried another seat for the state will only mean "another Chris Cannon," it could also mean a more secure seat for recently elected Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson, and it will mean more representation for Utah, even if it is in Republican form.

Taylor recently criticized the Attorney General's Office, because he says it isn't paying attention to the issue of statistical sampling that was used in the apportionment count, and that the argument stands a better chance in court than the issue of excluding missionaries in the overseas count.

"The sampling alone could have cost Utah a seat. . . . At least this (argument) has a positive history, and the other one doesn't," Taylor said.

Tom Lee, a Brigham Young University professor and lead counsel in the case, says Taylor's accusations are "unfair" and "politically motivated." He says he is frustrated that the Democratic Party is questioning Utah's team of attorneys, who have spent countless hours researching the case.

"It's easy to skim the surface and think you've found something we missed," Lee said. "They're simply wrong and they haven't read our briefs."

The sampling issue is being raised, Lee said, but it may not be the highlight of the plaintiffs' argument. In its case against the federal government, Utah's main argument is that counting some overseas residents and not others was unconstitutional.

In December, when the 2000 Census apportionment figures were released, North Carolina beat out Utah by 857 people to gain another congressional representative. That state had 18,000 military personnel who were counted overseas, while Utah had fewer than 4,000.

Utah filed a lawsuit against the bureau in January, claiming it was discriminating by excluding 11,176 Utah residents who were serving LDS Church missions overseas on April 1, 2000, the official date of the census count.

Taylor says Massachusetts brought up a similar argument dealing with the overseas population count in court several years ago and lost.

Statistical sampling, which is said to make up for those people who are missed by the census count, can be used for redrawing state political boundaries but not for reapportionment. Reapportionment numbers must come from actual, raw data, according to a 1999 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But Taylor says the bureau did use a kind of sampling when it conducted the 2000 apportionment count, possibly counting 90,000 North Carolina residents twice, compared to 13,000 in Utah. If that statistical alteration were removed, Utah would gain a fourth seat.


E-mail: ehayes@desnews.com