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NJ Assembly OKs Census Bill

June 6, 2000

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ Ignoring charges that the bill was racist, Assembly Republicans on Monday approved a measure aimed at forcing the state to use only an actual head count when redrawing legislative districts.

The bill bars the use of any statistical sample of the state’s population culled from this year’s census.

Democrats and other opponents contend the method backed by Republicans undercounts minorities, recent immigrants and people living in cities.

``It is tantamount to a poll tax,″ said Assemblywoman Nia Gill. ``This is another attempt to do what they couldn’t do at Selma on ‘Bloody Sunday’ when we said we would vote.″

Lawmakers voted 42-34 along strict party lines following a rancorous debate. The bill now heads to the Senate, where Republicans also outnumber Democrats. Gov. Christie Whitman, also a Republican, has not taken a position on the legislation, said her spokesman, Gene Herman.

Similar bills have been approved in five states _ Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas and Virginia, according to The New York Times. All of the bills have been introduced by Republicans and all the votes have been split along party lines.

During Monday’s debate, Democrats argued that statistical sampling is more accurate than traditional head counting. They also accused Republican sponsors of being insensitive to the fears of recent immigrants and ignorant of statistical methods.

Bill sponsor Assemblyman Michael P. Carroll defended the measure, saying New Jersey’s small towns make it easier to conduct accurate head counts. All forms of sampling provide some margin of error, and none can match the accuracy provided by the head count, he said.

The U.S. Census Bureau will give the state two results _ the actual head count of residents who answered the census and an estimate based on that data and statistical models.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that sampling-enhanced numbers cannot be used in deciding the number of congressional representatives from each state.

Left unspecified was whether sample-adjusted numbers could be used to allocate federal funds or to draw boundaries for congressional districts.

States will have the option of using either adjusted or raw census data to redraw the congressional and state legislative district boundaries.


On the Net: Office of Legislative Services Web site: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us.

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