WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Thursday to decide quickly if statistical sampling may be used for the 2000 census, a high-stakes case that could sway elections and affect how billions of tax dollars are spent.
After hearing arguments Nov. 30, the justices likely will decide by March whether the Census Bureau can use statistical sampling for the population count in 2000.
Both the administration, which wants to use the sampling method, and the Republican-led House, which wants it banned, said a decision by March is vital.
The administration is challenging a three-judge federal panel's decision invalidating the use of sampling. Ruling on a lawsuit filed by the House, the court said sampling would violate a federal law. The court did not rule on the constitutionality of sampling.
Billions of dollars in federal funds are allocated on the basis of state and city populations. Shifts in numbers can lead to the redrawing of House districts.
The Census Bureau said it could produce the most accurate numbers by combining its traditional head-counting methods with a statistical sample, which uses data from a random selection of households.
The Census Bureau proposed that method after determining that the 1990 count missed millions of people, mostly racial and ethnic minorities in cities.