Utah Loses House Seat over Census-Count Rule

Article excerpt

While Michael Wayne Anderson was living in Venezuela as a Mormon missionary, he held a Utah driver's license, maintained his status as a registered voter and paid taxes on his stock dividends.

But that wasn't good enough for the Census Bureau, which failed to count Mr. Anderson as a U.S. citizen in the 2000 census. The bureau's decision to count overseas military and government personnel but not religious workers meant that Utah, which had some 14,000 Mormon missionaries living abroad, fell short of a fourth House seat by a scant 856 persons.

Mr. Anderson, who returned home to Orem, Utah, in May after a two-year mission, has joined Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt, state legislative leaders and the state's congressional delegation in suing the Census Bureau to wrest back the seat that otherwise would go to North Carolina.

"I thought, `I pay taxes, I vote, I feel like I participate as a full citizen. In every other way, I'm a citizen and I should be counted,' " said Mr. Anderson, 21, a sophomore at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. "The IRS could find me, so I think the Census Bureau could."

To Mr. Anderson, it's a question of basic fairness, but to the bureau, it's a matter of enforcing the rules. The instructions for the decennial count stated that federal and military employees would be tallied but made no such provision for missionaries, and state leaders had ample opportunity to object to the rules before the count, say census officials.

"The rules were set before the census was taken, and they should not be changed at this late date," said North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who has intervened in the lawsuit to protect the North Carolina seat.

North Carolina was credited with 18,360 military and civil employees living abroad, while Utah had 3,545. The Utah lawsuit argues that the Census Bureau should include both military workers and missionaries, which would enable Utah, with its 14,124 missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to overtake North Carolina.

"This suit is to reclaim fairness and protect our constitutional right to representation," said Mr. Leavitt, who believes the current count makes Utah "the least proportionally represented state in the union."

A three-judge panel of the U. …