Republican Blasts Census Methods


Wednesday, July 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


WASHINGTON (AP) — A surge in completed forms from areas underrepresented in the last Census came too close to the deadline to be credible, Republicans say, and they are demanding recounts.

Rep. Dan Miller, R-Fla., said Tuesday he had ``serious doubts'' the Census left enough time to count households that didn't respond to the mailed forms, and cited evidence of rushed surveys in 15 areas across the country.

The information, he said, was obtained by members of the Census subcommittee staff in consultation with the congressional members of a Census Monitoring Board and two former senior Census Bureau officials, whom Miller did not identify.

The congressman said the committee and Office of Inspector General at Commerce were getting calls from concerned Census Bureau managers, enumerators, and other employees questioning the quality of the data. Miller called that disappointing in light of the nearly $6.5 billion the government has invested in the national head count.

The panel named these areas as questionable: Florence, Ala.; west Atlanta; Chicago's far south and near north areas, Marion County, Ind.; Las Vegas; Rapid City, S.D.; East Los Angeles, Commerce and Santa Ana, Calif.; Newark, N.J.; the northwest section of the Queens borough of New York City; northeast New York City; Newcastle, Pa.; north Philadelphia, and Hialeah, Fla.

Census officials had acknowledged previously that they are reviewing some 150,000 households because of questions about certain enumerating practices. But Tuesday, they accused Miller of overstating the problem.

``We have told the subcommittee not to misrepresent the data because they are not easily interpretable to the public,'' Census Director Kenneth Prewitt said in a conference call with reporters. ``But obviously they have not done so.''

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., in whose district one of the questioned Census offices operates, said she takes the charges ``very seriously.''

``While I am concerned about these allegations, I am also concerned with the way they have been made,'' she said in a statement. ``To allege that procedures have been violated is one thing,'' the congresswoman said. ``To make allegations of fraud is quite another, and after reviewing the documents provided carefully, I have seen no evidence of widespread fraud.''

Suspicions about the 15 locations are based on problems the bureau has had in South Florida and Chicago. Despite these problems, the bureau said it still believes the count was efficient and thorough.

Previously, the Census Bureau had ordered a re-count of thousands of households in Chicago because of suspicions that workers cut corners to boost the number of completed questionnaires.

``We have some doubt about the quality'' of the count, bureau spokesman Steve Jost said in confirming Chicago's re-count earlier this month. Similar problems were found in Hialeah, Fla.

The largest recount to date is in Florida, where suspected corner-cutting led Census officials to go back and review information gathered from more than 71,000 households.

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On the Net: Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov