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Brennan Center Statement on Utah V. Evans

June 20, 2002

For Immediate Release
June 20, 2002

Contact Information:
Amanda Cooper, 212 998–6282

Media Alert: Brennan Center Statement on Utah v. Evan
Longstanding Census Procedure Helps to Prevent Bias

The Supreme Court today upheld the constitutionality of a census procedure that helps to ensure that systematic biases in the headcount do not result in unfair apportionment of congressional representatives. Called “hot-deck imputation,” the procedure fills in gaps and resolves conflict in data about some households by using current information known about nearby and similar households. The challenged procedure has been used successfully since 1960, by both Democratic and Republican administrations.

“This decision is a victory for the principle of one-person-one-vote,” said Deborah Goldberg, Deputy Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “Imputation helps to ensure that biases known to infect the census do not translate into unfair and unequal representation in Congress.” The Supreme Court ruled that imputation is not a form of sampling, which has been held unconstitutional for purposes of apportioning members of Congress to the states.

In its amicus brief in the case, the Brennan Center used textual and historical analysis to argue that the Constitution affirmatively encourages, rather than prevents, the use of imputation to improve the accuracy of state population totals used for congressional apportionment. The Center also urged the Court to defer to the Census Bureau in directing the manner in which the census is conducted. In its decision, the majority recognized “a strong constitutional interest in accuracy” and noted that the Framers “did not write detailed census methodology into the Constitution.” The Center’s brief is available.