State Rep. Ed Cannaday has a lot of ground to cover as he visits with his District 15 constituents at their senior nutrition sites, schools, civic groups or on-the-street visits.
“I could drive 300 miles a day easily, starting in Panama in Le Flore County and going all the way to Texanna,” said Cannaday, a Porum Democrat whose district reaches into five rural counties and touches the Cherokee, Creek and Choctaw nations.
Like other legislators, Cannaday soon will see changes in whom he represents when the State of Oklahoma does its post-Census redistricting. By law, the Legislature must redraw district and congressional boundaries to reflect changes in population every 10 years, immediately following the U.S. Census.
The House Redistricting Steering Committee will seek public input on redistricting at a meeting 7 p.m. Thursday at Northeastern State University.
Cannaday, who plans to attend the meeting, said he doesn’t expect his district to change much. However, he said he is concerned how shifts in population toward metropolitan areas could affect how well rural areas are represented.
“We’re not talking about inner city growth, but suburbia,” Cannaday said.
Official 2010 census features for counties won’t be available until March, however 2009 census estimates show dramatic growth surrounding Oklahoma and Tulsa counties since 2000. For example, 2009 estimates show Wagoner County population growing by 22 percent from 2000.
“The largest change you’ll see is in western Oklahoma,” said State Rep. Danny Morgan, D-Prague, a member of the House Redistricting Steering Committee.
State Rep. Wade Rousselot, D-Okay, said his district, which covers most of Wagoner County, changed drastically in the six years he’s been in office.
“Some of the growth in the district has been in the lake area,” Rousselot said, referring to Fort Gibson Lake in the northeast part of District. 12. “The explosion came out of Tulsa, Broken Arrow, rural Broken Arrow. You’re seeing cow pastures being turned into housing divisions.”
The west Wagoner County suburbs have different demographics than the Okay farmland, but Rousselot said his constituents share the same needs.
He said any differences are “not noticeable.”
“The calls are mainly about a misunderstanding or a problem with a state agency,” he said. “Being a legislator, even in a minority party, I still can help folks in my home district.”
Rousselot said he doesn’t see much difference in the types of legislation his different constituents want.
Cannaday, however, said districts need a unified voice.
“I personally think as much as we can, we need to keep the demographics the same,” Cannaday said while visiting a Cherokee nutrition site in Porum. He was not there to make a speech, just visit with constituents.
“It’s very important that the person who is important hears you,” said Roosevelt Manning, who sat across the table from the representative.
Ben Robinson recalled the state being redistricted twice during his tenure in the State Senate.
“What happened those two times was we kept gravitating toward the metro area, Tulsa,” Robinson said. “When I first started, I didn’t quite have all of Muskogee County. After the 1990 Census redistricting, I had all of Muskogee County except for one box in Fort Gibson. After the 2000 Census, I had all of Muskogee County, plus one or two precincts in Wagoner County, near Porter.”
That’s how the district is laid out now, with Earl Garrison, D-Muskogee, serving as state senator.
Robinson said he expects the senate district to continue gravitating toward Tulsa as the Tulsa metropolitan area continues to expand into other counties.
As a result, larger cities such as Tulsa and Oklahoma City get more senators and representatives, who have smaller areas to cover. Those serving in rural areas might have entire counties or several counties. Their districts may grow in area in order to keep the same population.
The Oklahoma Constitution dictates 48 Senate districts and sets House districts by a more complex formula involving 100 political subdivisions.
Four representatives have districts in Muskogee County: Cannaday; George Faught, R-Muskogee; Jerry McPeak, D-Warner and Jerry Shoemake, D-Morris.
Rousselot said Wagoner County might be divided again by the redistricting.
“They might push Tulsa out, or maybe they’ll put another district there,” Rousselot said.
Reach Cathy Spaulding at 684-2928 or cspaulding @muskogeephoenix.com.
If You Go
WHAT: Public Meeting on Redistricting.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday.
WHERE: W. Roger Webb Educational Technology Center, Northeastern State University, 601 N. Grand Ave., Tahlequah.
WHY: Share input and ask questions about redistricting process.
Counties’ population growth
2009 estimate and change from 2000
• Muskogee County, 71,412, up 2.8 percent.
• Wagoner County: 70,394, up 22.4 percent.
• Cherokee County: 46,029, up 8.2 percent.
• Sequoyah County: 41,433, up 6.3 percent.
• McIntosh County: 19,801, up 1.8 percent.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau.