MARGARET WARNER: Now, two perspectives on the political stakes of the legal arguments the court heard today. Matthew Glavin is president of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, which represents several individual plaintiffs in a number of states who believe they'll lose representation if sampling is adopted. And Dennis Lopez is the national census director for the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund which supports the use of sampling.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Lopez, why change the way the US has been conducting its census for more than 200 years?
DENNIS LOPEZ, Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund: Well, in fact, the - what we're looking at here is the fact that the census has been less and less affected in its traditional method of carrying out the actual count. And it's been determined by an impartial group of experts and by former census directors, both from Republican and Democratic administrations, that, indeed, the use of statistical sampling will provide the most accurate and the least expensive census in the year 2000.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Glavin.
MATTHEW GLAVIN, Southeastern Legal Foundation: Well, the problem is not accuracy or close. The problem is whether it's legal or constitutional. This administration essentially wants to solve a problem that we had in the 1990 census. That was a 1.6 percent undercount. Their solution remarkably is to deliberately undercount by 10 percent and then create about 27 million mythical people.
This administration will decide what those 27 million people look like, and they'll decide where those 27 million people live. The founding fathers specifically wanted to avoid that kind of situation, where one administration could politically manipulate the numbers for their partisan gain. They wanted a permanent and precise standard. That's why they wrote the words "actual enumeration" into the Constitution. It's important that we protect our heritage. It's important that we protect the integrity of the Constitution.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Lopez, do you want to respond to that on the point of the Constitution and sort of the history and heritage here?
DENNIS LOPEZ: Well, I think more important is the issues that we're talking about a differential undercount - not only of ethnic minorities - and that certainly is the case - is the differential undercount for Latinos, African-Americans, American Indians, and Asians; however, there's also an undercount of children. And from our perspective, from MALDEF's perspective, we are interested in the most complete count possible and the use of the scientific method. The word "guess" was used. The implication that this is a purely political ploy I think is really misrepresenting the situation. There were both Republican and Democrat heads of the Census Bureau who actually came to the same conclusion after hearing the experts that, indeed, the most accurate count could be affected by the use of statistical sampling. And this is, I think, the more direct way of looking at the issue.
MARGARET WARNER: What are the political stakes here, Mr. Glavin, because in addition to your lawsuit, there is, of course, one filed by the Republican-led House of Representatives? How many seats potentially might shift from Democratic to Republican hands?
MATTHEW GLAVIN: Statisticians have said that it could result in as much of a shift as 24 seats from Republican hands to Democrat hands. More important, maybe, statisticians -
MARGARET WARNER: Excuse me. That's because the assumption is that most of the undercounted are predominantly - potentially at least Democratic votes.
MATTHEW GLAVIN: Sure. In the inner-city minority voters - there's another problem, though, in that census data is used to re-district state legislatures, and the statisticians have suggested that Republicans may lose as many as 113 state senate seats, as many as 294 state House seats. We are here at the crux of the problem. It's politics. It's distribution of political power. But look at what happened in 1990.
In 1990, it was Republican members of Congress who were promoting the use of statistical sampling. Not surprising, of course, they were also in charge of the White House. They were making those assumptions. When you use statistics, you have to make assumptions - X = -- they were deciding what X is. Now, here we are in 2000, a Democrat's in charge of the White House, they'll make the decisions, they'll manipulate the numbers, and, again, that's exactly what the founding fathers wanted to avoid.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Lopez, would you agree, this is essentially about politics?
DENNIS LOPEZ: Well, let me make our position clear. The Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund is a nonpartisan entity. We are neither pro-Democrat nor pro-Republican. However, our interest is that given the census data is used to apportion the funds that go to the local jurisdictions, cities, counties, states, et cetera, it is essential for the needs of the entire community that we have the most accurate count possible through the use of statistical sampling. Now, with respect to the issue of political representation, with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, it called for districts that represent one person, one vote. And if we don't have the most accurate count, we know already that African Americans, Latinos, Asians, American Indians will be undercounted.
It's happened the past several census -times that the census has been undertaken. And we know then that the districts with those concentrations of people will be larger because of the undercount than other districts, where there's more of a tendency for more of a complete count.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Lopez, why are minorities, why do they tend to be undercounted more seriously than other voter groups? Give us your sense from being out in the field there. What's the problem?
DENNIS LOPEZ: Well, there are several reasons, and let me say that although Latinos suffer from a 5 percent undercount, 1.5 million Latinos were missed by the census in 1990, and African Americans, Asians, and native Americans also suffered the undercount. But it's not just ethnic minorities. Different immigrant groups, children, people who live in urban areas, people who are low-income individuals of all ethnic groups tend to be undercounted.
MARGARET WARNER: But why? Why?
DENNIS LOPEZ: There's many reasons. Partially, we know that in the last several decades the adage goes that the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. Certainly, many people living at or above poverty are forced into living situations that are not the traditional nuclear family. You may have instances of individuals or families living in garages or living one or more family to a dwelling. There's a whole host of issues, including issues that deal not only with Latinos but inclusive of Latinos, with respect to immigrants. There's been a lot in public discourse about immigrants, immigration, and the value or perspectives on the value that immigrants bring to this country. So among immigrants, not all, but among many immigrants there's reluctance to give information by participating in the census. Now, with MALDEF -
MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask Mr. Glavin to just respond to those points. If you don't use sampling, how do you get around these problems that he just laid out?
MATTHEW GLAVIN: There are a number of things that we can do to improve the census count, but I want to make a point first, and that is that being counted is a right. You have a right to be counted in the census. It's like many other rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution, the right to freedom of speech, the right to vote. And like every other right, they are guaranteed to individuals, not to groups of people, not African Americans or Mexicans, but rather to individuals.
The government doesn't vote for you when you choose not to - to enjoy the benefits of a right - you have to exercise that right as an individual. If you don't vote, the government doesn't vote for you. If you don't stand up and speak, the government's not going to speak for you. And if you don't stand up to be counted, the government shouldn't count for you. We don't guess at the number of votes in an election, and we should never, ever guess at the number of people in America. But we can count better.
The National Academy of Sciences has said that 50 percent of the undercount is a result of bad mailing lists, and since 1990, we have spent almost ¼ billion dollars improving the mailing lists. In the year 2000 for the census, we will for the first time in American history spend over $100 million on targeted advertising campaigns, targeted specifically to those difficult-to-enumerate communities. We will have census forms available in multiple languages.
If you don't receive a census form in the mail, you'll be able to go down to your local library or the Medicaid office or the welfare office, or even to your local 7-11 store and pick up a census form, or you can call an 800 number and get on the Internet. There are a lot of things that can be done to improve the count, but the solution for 1.6 percent undercount isn't to deliberately undercount by 10 percent and then guess.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Lopez, briefly, because we're almost out of time. Could more aggressive outreach like this solve the problem and do it by actual counting?
DENNIS LOPEZ: Well, we support the participation of the census of all people within the United States, but let me give you an illustration. In the city of Los Angeles, the city of Los Angeles stands to gain $122 per person, per year, or $1,200 for the 10 years per person that is counted. So when - if the city of Los Angeles suffers the same Latino undercount of over 76,000 persons in 1990 - if we suffer the same undercount in the year 2000, every resident of the city of Los Angeles stands to lose $93 million that could have come into this city for roads, for housing, for all the needs that are met by the count and the portion - the money that is delivered to the local jurisdictions as a result of the census. So it's not just a Latino issue. It's a Latino - it's an issue, I should say, for all residents of these jurisdictions.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Dennis Lopez and Matt Glavin, thank you very much.
MATTHEW GLAVIN: Thank you, Margaret.
DENNIS LOPEZ: Thank you.