by Bill Johnson
American Reporter Correspondent
Oklahoma City, Okla.
December 31, 2000
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma received a belated Christmas present worse than any lump of coal: Preliminary Census data show the state will lose one of its six congressional seats.
It's not that Oklahoma's population isn't rising. It's just that it hasn't risen as fast as in other states.
Oklahomans sweated out the Census 10 years ago and barely held onto the sixth congressional seat then. But officials are resigned to the fact that they won't be so lucky again.
"Oklahoma is the only state west of the Mississippi (River) to lose a seat in the House of Representatives," said Gov. Frank Keating. He blamed the state's lack of a right-to-work law for being at least partially to blame for the loss.
"Once again Oklahoma appears to be an island of slow- or no-growth in a sea of prosperity, and you don't have to look far for the reasons: anti-growth taxes, no right-to-work, perpetual resistance to reforms in workers' compensation, and old guard stuck-in-the-past mentality on the part of some," the Republican governor said.
Right-to-work outlaws compulsory union membership as a qualification for getting or keeping a job. It is a perpetual legislative goal of Republicans.
According to the first results from the 2000 Census, Oklahoma's population grew by 9.7 percent in the past decade to 3,450,654. The higher population pushed Oklahoma past Connecticut as the 27th most populous state. But that rate of growth was well behind the national average of 13.2 percent. The Census put the new national population at 281,421,906.
Texas, Arizona and Georgia are the biggest winners in the congressional seat race. Each will gain two new seats. California, Colorado, Nevada and North Carolina each will gain one seat.
The biggest losers were New York and Pennsylvania, which will lose two seats each. Other states that will lose one seat include Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Oklahoma's Legislature will draw up new congressional districts, which must be in place before the November 2002 elections. The new seating arrangements will go into effect with the 108th Congress, which convenes in January 2003.
Oklahoma's congressional lineup now includes five Republicans and one Democrat. State Rep. Bill Paulk, the Oklahoma City Democrat who is chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, said it won't be a simple matter of just eliminating one congressional district.
"We'll lose all six of them, and then go back and draw five new districts," Paulk said.
The 1970 Census was the first time since the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl that Oklahoma's population rose above the 1930 count. The Census counted 2,396,040 Oklahomans in 1930. This dropped to 2,336,434 in 1940.
In 1970, the count rose to 2,559,463 and has risen each 10 years since.