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Published: Thursday, 12/28/2000

Census to show small gain in Ohio

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - The U.S. Census Bureau is expected to tell Ohio today what it knows: Its population is growing.

But apparently not fast enough. Despite its growth, estimated at about 4 percent during the 1990s, Ohio is expected to again lose representation in the U.S. Congress to faster-growing states such as Arizona, Texas, California, Nevada, and Florida.

That will mean one less Ohio voice in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives when it comes to deciding how to divvy up federal funds for roads, schools, and pork-barrel projects.

It will means one less electoral vote, decreasing the state's clout in presidential elections.

Based on a review of preliminary figures, the raw population figure for Ohio to be released today in Washington will be approximately 11,275,000, said Barry Bennett of the Ohio Department of Development's research office.

That's up about 3.9 percent from 10,847,000 in 1990.

“Ohio is similar to a lot of the Midwestern states,” Mr. Bennett said.

New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois are among the states expected to lose at least one representative.

Ohio has 19 congressmen, 11 Republicans and eight Democrats.

The state lost two seats after the 1990 census. With Republicans controlling the state Senate and Democrats controlling the House at the time, a compromise was struck by which each party sacrificed a seat.

In the end, however, it was a net gain for Democrats when Ted Strickland of Lucasville upset a veteran Republican in 1992 to take the new 6th District in southeastern Ohio.

This time Republicans control both chambers, so the odds are the seat that disappears will be a Democratic one.

“Looking geographically and population-wise, that is where the population losses are occurring,” said Gary Abernathy, spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party. “To keep a half-million people in each district, even an unbiased observer would say that is the logical place to look.”

Speculation has centered around the 13th, a suburban Cleveland district held by U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown of Lorain, or possibly Mr. Strickland's 6th District again.

“Obviously, the Republicans are going to attempt to gerrymander the districts to their liking,” Democratic Party Chairman David Leland said. “They can't just do whatever they want. There are standards that must be adhered to. We'll make sure that they don't break any laws.”

The numbers to be released in Washington won't be finalized until next spring. Regional population trends, however, are evident.

According to Mr. Bennett, the northwest corner of the state - which includes the 9th District held by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) and the 5th held by Rep. Paul Gillmor (R., Old Fort) - has lost population.

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner continues to challenge the accuracy of the count for Toledo.

“I have made my concerns known all the way up the ladder in the census offices from Toledo to Detroit to Washington, D.C.,” he said.

“We are looking at taking whatever measures are available to us legally and otherwise to challenge the numbers,” Mayor Finkbeiner said.

The east-central portion of the state, including Youngstown, continues to experience population declines, Mr. Bennett said.

That region is represented by embattled Rep. James A. Traficant, Jr., (D., Youngstown) Rep. Robert Ney (R., St. Clairsville).

The numbers not only affect representation and funding. They are a matter of bragging rights for states as they paint a picture about where Americans prefer to live and where opportunity is perceived to be.

“Not to trivialize the census by any means, but we certainly are a country caught up in measurement,” Mr. Bennett said.



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