Detroit loses on census issue

A federal appeals court blocked a move by the City of Detroit to add more members of minorities to its census count.The Sixth US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a judge's order of a statistical change in the 1980 census to compensate for an expected undercount of blacks and Hispanics. The appeals court ruled 2 t 1 that Detroit did not have legal standing to bring suit because it failed to show that the unadjusted census figures would harm its minority residents.

"The claimed injury is based on a state of affairs not yet in existence," Judge Gilbert Merritt wrote for the majority, "and it is so hypothetical . . . that it does not present a controversy capable of judicial resolution."

But Judge Damon Keith dissented, calling that opinion "rife with legal and factual misanalysis." He said it incorrectly applied legal doctrine "to avoid grapping with a serious question of constitutional harm."

In the case, tried in August 1980, both the US Census Bureau and the city agreed that an undercount of minority groups was likely, despite conscientious efforts by the bureau to conduct an accurate count.

The city claimed the undercount would violate the "one man, one vote" principle of congressional representation. It argued that Detroit's population, which includes many blacks and Hispanics, would not be counted as accurately as white suburbs and other areas of the state.

But the appeals court said the Michigan Legislature, contrary to the city's assertions, is not legally bound to accept all Census Bureau data.

"There is no reason to believe that states would not be free to adjust cens us figures for redistricting .. . ," Judge Merritt said.

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