Enid News: Good News, Bad News for State 2010 Census

Feb 06, 2010
In The News

ENID — There’s good news for Oklahoma on the eve of the 2010 census.

The state doesn’t look to follow its footsteps of 2000 — when it lost a congressional seat because its gain in population wasn’t fast enough to outpace other states.

Then there’s the bad news: Oklahoma doesn’t look to gain its seat back in the upcoming count, either.

The state is sitting pretty much in the middle of the pack when it comes to congressional allocation based on upcoming census estimates, according to Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, an agency officials turn to when it comes to dissecting formulas determining congressional representation.

“It looks like early on Oklahoma will hold firm,” with its handful of congressional seats, Brace said.

Brace’s prediction Oklahoma would be a state to lose in 2000 came to fruition after the census count ended, and the result was a redistricted state with only five representatives in the House.

Brace said he relies on census data and “five or six methods” when it comes to determining where the states will fall in the apportionment game.

It’s not just a round-robin pick. Based on population, many states may receive multiple congressional seats before Oklahoma, which had an estimated 3.7 million residents in 2009, is given one.

When the nation was re-apportioned in 2000, Oklahoma was given its fifth seat at number 374. Based on current population estimates, the sixth seat for the state would be 457 — 22 removed from the 435th and last seat given to form the U.S. Congress.

There are a lot of states in line before Oklahoma, Brace said, which is about 160,000 people short of gaining that seat.

Brace said he usually is accurate down to the last few seats, which are so close the final determination of who gains those comes down to how the census count falls and how many state military members are serving overseas.

However, Brace cannot predict exactly how the count will fall in any given state.

In 2000, Oklahoma had a 64 percent response rate to the census, which falls below the national rate of 67 percent. So the state residents would have to improve their response this time around.

That is a goal of Brett Schriever, manager for the Enid Census Bureau office, which overseas 16 counties in the state.

Schriever said there are an estimated 845,000 people living in his area, and his aim is to count them all.

He said his personal opinion is “we gained enough people, we may get our seat back,” but it depends on those who will be counted.

Local, state and federal officials with Oklahoma ties are pushing for education about the census, as it not only has political implications on the federal and state levels — state House districts also depend on census numbers — it has a financial impact.

Each person represents anywhere from $1,000 to $1,200 in federal funding for the states, Schriever said.

“After the last census, Oklahoma lost one of its seats in Congress, and we must ensure that does not happen again,” said Congressman Frank Lucas, who was representative of Oklahoma’s 6th Congressional Dis-trict when 2000 dawned and saw his district expanded to cover more ground as it was re-apportioned into the 3rd district.

“Remember,” he said, “the future of Oklahoma is in your hands.”

Oklahoma missed retaining its sixth seat by less than 75,000 people in 2000 even though it gained in population, Brace said. Other states simply gained more people.

This seems to hold true in 2010, as the gap has widened to 160,000 needed to pick up the seat.

States that stand to gain congressional seats in the upcoming count, based on one of Election Data Services models, are Texas at four and Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington at one each. Those estimated to lose seats are Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michi-gan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania at one each and Ohio at two.

Looking back on Oklahoma’s history of congressional representation, the state peaked in 1930 with nine seats, climbing from eight in 1910 and 1920. It fell back to eight in 1940 and stayed steady at six representatives from 1950 to 1990.

The state started the 21st Century the way it started the 20th Century as a territory in 1900 — with five congressional seats.

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