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Archive for Tuesday, August 13, 1991

CENSUS SHIFTS PUT AREAS IN THE HOLE

August 13, 1991

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State adjustments to the federal census show seven areas in Lawrence with negative populations, but a state official says that's not a problem.

The significance of the negative population figures between the state census and federal census in some areas of Kansas has created a difference of opinion between the secretary of state's office and the vice-chair of the joint legislative reapportionment committee.

Ron Thornburgh, assistant secretary of state, said 89 of Kansas' 160,000 census blocks, or areas of population, showed negative population counts after the state adjusted federal population totals.

The seven Lawrence blocks total a negative count of 1,021 people, meaning that when the state adjusted the federal census numbers, it removed more people than were counted in the U.S. census. Kansas University accounted for four of those blocks, two were at Haskell Indian Junior College and the other was at a mobile home park.

THORNBURGH explained that the negative population counts had no bearing on the state or local census, because the people all Kansans generally were counted in an adjoining block in the same community.

He said the discrepancy between the federal and state numbers occurred when the federal government counted students at an address that had no living space, such as an administration building, rather than at the address of where they actually lived.

"That's really where all these negative numbers come from," Thornburgh said. "People have not reported an address within the block where their address really is. We've counted them specifically where their residence is."

He said the negative population should not affect Douglas County or its lawsuit with the state on how the state counts students and military personnel, who are counted in their home communities.

"THE DOUGLAS County population will remain the same as what it was reported in the (state) census," he said. "Literally, everything comes out a wash in the numbers."

The state's census method counted 12,000 less people in the county than did the federal census. The county is concerned that the lesser population count will decrease its influence in the Kansas Legislature when the legislative districts are redrawn later this year using the adjusted state figures.

On Monday, the county filed an appeal with the Kansas Court of Appeals of a district court ruling last month that upheld the state's census method of counting students and military personnel.

Rep. Joan Adam, D-Atchison, vice-chair of the Legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Apportionment, said the negative population counts troubled the committee.

"THERE WAS a lot of concern expressed by the committee about that," she said.

Adam said the negative counts also were a "sign that there were problems" in other areas of the census adjustment which could "cast doubts" about the accuracy of the state census. She said the committee "reluctantly" asked the secretary of state's office to work out the problem with the federal government.

The reapportionment committee, which has held hearings on redistricting around the state this summer, will begin its work in earnest on Oct. 1, Adam said. Thornburgh said his office would work with the federal government to provide updated census numbers by that date.

The state's redistricting plan must be in place in time for the November 1992 general election.

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