Oklahoma census: Population growth, declines will have political ramifications

Suburban county growth and rural county declines from the latest census data will mean big changes for Oklahoma legislative district boundaries.
BY PAUL MONIES pmonies@opubco.com Published: February 16, 2011
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About 2.85 million Oklahomans lived in cities and towns in 2010. That compared with about 894,000 people who lived in unincorporated areas.

Five cities with more than 5,000 people showed population gains of more than 50 percent in last decade: Blanchard, Jenks, Piedmont, Bixby and Owasso.

Redistricting effects

Keith Gaddie, a redistricting expert and political science professor at the University of Oklahoma, said the new population totals will mean big changes for many state House and Senate districts.

The House and Senate have until the end of session in May to finalize their new boundaries and send the plans to Gov. Mary Fallin. There is no strict deadline for congressional lines, but they are supposed to be finished before the candidate filing period in June 2012.

Ideally, each new Senate district should have about 78,000 residents and each new House district should have 37,000 residents. There are 48 Senate districts and 101 House districts in the Legislature.

Generally, suburban growth around Oklahoma City and Tulsa will mean many of those legislative districts will shrink in size to reflect population growth and density. Sparsely populated rural districts will expand in size to reflect updated population requirements.

“With the (Republican) majorities you have, if you're a term-limited Democrat, you're probably the odd man out,” Gaddie said.

With the growth in Canadian County, Gaddie said it should now be entitled to three House seats. But political considerations might mean more House districts will reach into Canadian County to protect incumbents, he said. The same could happen in other central Oklahoma suburban counties and in suburban counties around Tulsa.

“There is a lot going on south and west of the Oklahoma City metro that is interesting,” Gaddie said.

The latest census figures show the state's Hispanic population growing 85 percent to more than 332,000 people. Hispanics now make up 8.9 percent of the state's population.

Gaddie said Hispanic growth in Oklahoma has continued despite progressively tougher immigration-related laws passed in the last few years.

“Despite the expected impact of House Bill 1804, there has not been a mass exodus of Hispanics in Oklahoma,” Gaddie said of the wide-ranging 2007 bill that toughened penalties for undocumented immigrants, ramped up police enforcement and penalized employers for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.



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