Administration Asks High Court to Allow for an Adjustment in Census Results

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- With money and votes across the nation at stake, the Clinton administration asked the Supreme Court on Monday to reject a Republican challenge and let it adjust the 2000 census results to make up for an expected undercount of minorities.

No census finds everyone, but the government's plan "will best achieve the Constitution's goal of determining the number of persons in each state," Solicitor General Seth Waxman told the court. "It is in effect a quality check" on the initial head count to be conducted April 1, 2000.

But lawyers for the Republican-led House and a group of private citizens insisted the proposal violates the Constitution and federal law. "A 100 percent head count is the only permissible means of apportioning the population," said Michael A. Carvin, representing private citizens from six states. So far, two lower courts have ruled the government's plan unlawful. Adjusting the census likely would help Democrats because minorities and city residents made up a large share of the estimated 4 million people missed by the 1990 census. The case could affect the shape of congressional, state and local election districts nationwide, as well as the way that $180 billion in federal aid is handed out. The court is expected to aim for a decision by March to give the government time to plan for the 2000 count. The Constitution requires an "actual enumeration" to divide the 435 members of the House of Representatives among the states based on population. But the justices appeared divided over what those words allow. "Most people would think that actual enumeration means a count," said Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in challenging Waxman's argument for allowing a statistical adjustment. Justice Antonin Scalia seemed to agree, saying that if actual enumeration allows census numbers to be estimated, "what is excluded -- rolling the dice?" But justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen G. …