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Wisconsin v. City of New York

Decision, An Early Constitutional Compromise, Census Procedures And Statistical And Demographic Advances, The 1990 Census


State of Wisconsin


City of New York, et al.

Petitioner's Claim

That the refusal of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to use a post-enumeration survey statistical adjustment to correct the 1990 census represented a violation of the Census Clause of the Constitution.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

Peter C. Anderson, Assistant Attorney General of Wisconsin

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

Drew S. Days, III, U.S. Solicitor General

Justices for the Court

Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony M. Kennedy, Sandra Day O'Connor, William H. Rehnquist (writing for the Court), Antonin Scalia, David H. Souter, John Paul Stevens, Clarence Thomas

Justices Dissenting



Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

10 January 1996


The ruling upheld the historic procedures used in taking the census, and strongly implied that the application of new methods would invite detrimental political gerrymandering of census results, even if these results might be more accurate. The Court also reaffirmed the authority of the Secretary of Commerce to decide the manner in which the census is taken.


Wisconsin v. City of New York confirmed the power of the Secretary of Commerce to determine the method of census taking. Also, by confirming the precedence of "distributive accuracy" over actual accuracy in the census, the Court implied that future secretaries of commerce would also be able to reject still more accurate statistical and demographic methods of census-taking.

Related Cases

  • Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1 (1964).
  • Gaffney v. Cummings, 412 U.S. 735 (1973).
  • Department of Commerce v. Montana, 503 U.S. 442 (1992).
  • Franklin v. Massachusetts, 505 U.S. 788 (1992).

Additional topics

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