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Case Basics
Docket No. 
New York
No. 94-1631
No. 94-1985
(Argued the cause for the respondents)
(Argued the cause for the state petitioners)
(Argued the cause on behalf of the federal petitioners)
Facts of the Case 

Under the Constitution's Census Clause, Congress is vested with the responsibility of conducting an "actual enumeration" of the American public every ten years, primarily for the purpose of aportioning congressional representation among the states. Congress delegated this responsibility to the Secretary of Commerce who, in the 1990 census, decided not to use a statistical correction, known as the post-enumeration survey (PES), to adjust an undercount in the initial population count. Acting on behalf of several citizens' groups, states, and cities, Wisconsin challenged the Secretary's decision not to use the PES; claiming that it resulted in an undercounting of certain identifiable minority groups.


Did the decision of the Secretary of Commerce not to use the PES in the 1990 census violate the constitutional right of certain minorities to be counted?

Decision: 9 votes for Wisconsin, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3: Apportionment of Representatives

No. The Court held that the decision not to use the PES-based statistical correction would not be reviewed under a strict scrutiny standard of "one person - one vote" because there was no showing of intentional discrimination by the Secretary of Commerce. The Secretary's decision was consistent with past census practices in which the promotion of distributive accuracy, rather than numerical accuracy, was the primary objective. This is because errors in numerical accuracy are less likely than errors in distributive accuracy to impact on the apportionment of representatives among the states. Moreover, the Court added that significant deference - regarding how best to conduct the census - must be accorded to the Secretary since he directly received such latitude from Congress which, in turn, received such latitude from the Constitution.

Cite this Page
WISCONSIN v. NEW YORK. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_94_1614>.
WISCONSIN v. NEW YORK, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_94_1614 (last visited August 26, 2015).
"WISCONSIN v. NEW YORK," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_94_1614.