Left-leaning groups want to include millions of pretend people in the real-life 2010 Census. It almost happened in 2000. This time, they might get their way.  The administration claims it has “no plans” to use statistical sampling to augment the actual headcount next year by adding millions of fictitious people.

Statistical sampling creates profiles of make-believe people, assigning them an address, a gender, race, age, income, and other characteristics. And it counts them, just as though they were counted by a census worker. The Left argues that minorities and illegal immigrants are usually undercounted. They seek statistical “adjustments” to add made-up people, using assumptions and formulas that can be both factually wrong and politically manipulated.

Obama’s choice as new Census Director is University of Michigan Professor Robert Groves, who the Senate may confirm with a vote as early as this evening. Groves is a champion of statistical sampling. As reported by the Associated Press, “When he was the bureau’s associate director, Groves recommended that the 1990 census be statistically adjusted to make up for an undercount of roughly 5 million people, many of them minorities in dense urban areas who tend to vote for Democrats.”

Conservatives worry that, having learned from the failure of Bill Clinton’s high-profile push for census sampling, the administration has adopted a stealth approach by claiming not to support sampling while hiring a Census Bureau Director who does.

With its impact on dozens of Congressional seats, the Electoral College, and the allocation of billions in taxpayer dollars, the possibility of sampling demands attention. The potential for political tampering and manipulation is too huge to ignore, whether those in power have pure intentions or Machiavellian intent.

As Joseph Stalin said, “Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.” And so could those who count the voters.