WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Census Bureau on Wednesday refused to give Utah more time to challenge its 2000 population count, a move state officials had hoped would revive efforts to gain a fourth House seat.
In a letter to Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, Census Bureau director Charles Louis Kincannon said states and localities had been given ample time to challenge their population figures through the "Count Question Resolution Program," which started in June 2001 and ended this past Sept. 30.
Leavitt requested an extension earlier this month after the bureau uncovered a counting error that left Utah about 80 people short of another House seat, instead of about 900. Bureau officials revealed the error the same day that the challenge program ended.
The seat went to North Carolina, which added a 13th district in 2002. Utah officials hoped that extending the challenge program would help their state find the elusive 80 residents.
But Kincannon said Wednesday the program was designed to catch boundary errors or computer coding mistakes, and that "such corrections were never intended to revise the apportionment count."
"I do not believe the CQR program, as designed and implemented, would affect the current apportionment in the U.S. House of Representatives," Kincannon said.
A call seeking comment from Leavitt's office was not immediately returned on Wednesday.
"We're disappointed that the Census Bureau rejected the extension, but we still feel we are the most underrepresented state in the nation," said Meghan Riding, spokeswoman for Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah.
The dispute had already been the subject of two lawsuits by Utah that failed at the U.S. Supreme Court.
By law, the 435 seats in the House are redistributed among the states at the start of each decade according to population shifts found in the census.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)