March 9, 2001

Commerce Chief Rejects Adjusted Redistrict Data

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Commerce Secretary Don Evans on Tuesday ruled out adjusting 2000 census figures to add millions of uncounted people for use in the contentious redrawing of national congressional districts.

Evans told a news conference that his decision, which was sure to disappoint typically undercounted minority groups such as blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans, was in line with advice received from the Census Bureau.

"I concluded that the recommendation of the Census Bureau professionals and Acting Director (William) Barron was correct and prudent," Evans said.

"Thus we will send unadjusted data to the states for the purpose and only the purpose of redistricting," he added.

Democrats, who count minority groups among their core constituents, and civil rights groups say that by not allowing adjusted figures, Republican Evans will effectively disenfranchise millions of people, many of whom already feel their votes were not counted in last November's disputed presidential election.

Redistricting, a reflection of population changes, has traditionally been a highly partisan issue as parties tend to use the process to draw district lines to their advantage.

It has taken on added weight this year as both parties vie for any advantage in one of the most closely divided Congresses in history.

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