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The News Star - Suspected Census Errors Irk Vitter

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Location: Unknown

By Scott Rogers

U.S. Sen. David Vitter wants answers from the Census Bureau regarding potential errors during 2010's count of Monroe residents.

Earlier this month Monroe officials said the city has accounted for about 2,000 more residents living in Monroe than the U.S. Census Bureau counted.

On Tuesday, Vitter submitted a letter to Census Bureau Director Robert Groves demanding answers to the potential errors in Monroe.

He said it's the second report of an undercount in Louisiana.

In May, Vitter's office requested answers regarding errors in Washington Parish, but he said Tuesday the bureau has not provided his office with an adequate response.

The bureau in November confirmed some residents in Washington Parish were not included in the database to be contacted for the census.

Now, Vitter is troubled over reports of an undercount in Monroe, and he questioned the bureau about the possibility of more errors throughout the state.

"This Monroe issue is now potentially the second major mistake by the Census Bureau. This debacle is all the more glaring given the fact that Louisiana is losing a congressional seat as a result of the most recent census," Vitter said.

"It clearly suggests this is a pattern, and it may even be more widespread than I feared. We have clear evidence of errors, and it's appalling. It seems the result of clear gross incompetence. We now have two cases in Louisiana. The question is how many more."

Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo said the city sent its revised figures to the U.S. Census Bureau for confirmation, but the city hasn't received a response.

He's glad to have Vitter's support and believes the documentation the city provided to the bureau will show Monroe's population was undercounted.

"We believe it was more of an oversight than anything and we're just pointing it out so it can be corrected," Mayo said.

If the new figures are confirmed, the city's population would surpass the 50,000 mark that Mayo has aimed to maintain.

The city's challenge count revealed 2,080 more residents living in Monroe than the 48,815 residents the census had originally counted in 2010.

That means the city's anticipated actual population is 50,895.

"It's important for us that we're still a city over 50,000. We're confident we were undercounted, and we've submitted the documentation for this to be corrected," Mayo said.

City officials were disappointed to learn in April 2010 that census workers only counted 48,815 people living in Monroe during the 2010 count. They thought some people had not been counted and decided to find out more about how the census landed on the 2010 numbers and how they could be challenged.

The city's Planning and Urban Development Department used Census block data and maps to compare census block numbers for Monroe and Ouachita Parish.
They saw the overlapping blocks where Monroe's population was counted in Ouachita Parish. Additionally, they identified some areas where there were undercounts, such as in the Monroe Housing Authority public housing developments.

The areas thought to have been mistakenly counted in the parish or undercounted include: Selman Drive apartments, house boats on Ouachita River along South Grand, the Ouachita Parish work release program, Liberty Square Apartments, the Carver Home area and the apartments on Chatham Drive.

It is unknown how, if at all, the new numbers would affect the city's revised district lines if the bureau accepts the city's count.

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