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March 7, 2011

State's congressional representation to stay the same

CHICKASHA — By CNHI Capital Bureau

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma's population grew by 8.7 percent during the past decade, but the growth was not enough to warrant a change in the number of congressional seats the state receives.

With about 3.75 million residents, Oklahoma ranks as the 28th most populous state in the nation, according to the first round of data from the 2010 Census that was released Tuesday.

The federal government uses the population counts to calculate the number of congressional representatives each state receives.

The Oklahoma's growth rate in the 10-year period was the 24th highest in the country. However, it still lagged slightly below the national population growth of 9.7 percent.

Roy Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, said the state's middle-of-the-pack population ranking still is a good sign for Oklahoma. He said it sends a message to companies that people continue to move to the state and that it is a desirable destination.

“It shows companies that we are trying to recruit and grow jobs,” he said. “It is very positive to show (the state) is an asset for being able to attract and retain people. People are moving here, and they want to come here.”

Deidre D. Myers, director of policy, research and economic analysis at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, credited the state's population growth to three main factors: The state was not hit as hard by the recession as other parts of the nation, the housing market here has been relatively stable and Oklahoma features a low cost of living.

“Population growth is associated with a strong and growing economy,” she said. “As you can see with states like Michigan that suffered the most coming out of the recession, they saw a decrease in population.”

Myers added it is a good sign that the state's 8.7 percent growth is similar to the 9.7 percent growth that Oklahoma experienced from 1990 to 2000. She said too much variation or even too high of an increase could lead to an unstable economy.

“You want strong, sustainable growth,” she said. “You don't want the growth to get too hot so that there is overgrowth like in Arizona or Nevada.”

Unlike after the 2000 Census, Oklahoma will not have to deal with the complicated task of redistricting and a change of congressional seats. The state's population growth was not significant enough to warrant an increase or decrease in its representation.

Lawmakers are required by law to redraw the state’s congressional lines and its state House and Senate district boundaries immediately after the decennial census. When Oklahoma lost a seat after the 2000 Census, it led to a court challenge as the state had to dramatically shift its congressional district lines.

 

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