THE CENSUS COUNT IS OUT, at least in preliminary form, and almost everyone's unhappy. In almost every state, the Census Bureau's population count came out well below its own estimates issued earlier in the year.

Complaints about the inadequacies of the census are nothing new, of course; officials of cities with large populations of blacks, Hispanics and immigrants have complained for years that Census Bureau tabulators miss a large proportion of their citizens. They want the bureau to correct its figures statistically - a procedure that's easy for large areas, but becomes much more complicated when applied to small towns, neighborhoods or individual blocks, whose population counts are used to draw lines for legislative and city council districts.The unexpectedly low state population figures suggest that the problems with the census count go far beyond the inner cities. It may be that identifying and counting every single American no longer is a feasible undertaking, and that Congress and the Census Bureau need to look at other ways to get the numbers they need.

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