OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Omaha and Lincoln areas saw big population gains over the last decade while most rural areas continued to decline, a trend that could shift more political power to both cities, according to U.S. Census data released Thursday.
The report shows that Sarpy County grew at the fastest rate in the state, 20%, between 2010 and 2020. The county, encompassing Omaha’s suburbs, had a population of 190,604 as of last year.
Douglas County gained the most overall residents, however, with a net increase of 67,416. The 13% increase brings the county’s total population to 584,526.
Lancaster County also grew by 13%, from 285,407 in 2010 to 322,608 last year, according to the data.
Meanwhile, McPherson County in west-central Nebraska became the state’s least populated county, with 399 residents in 2020 after losing 140 people over the decade. Previously, the smallest county had been neighboring Arthur County, which has a new official population of 434.
Nebraska lawmakers will use the new data to redraw the state’s political boundaries, including legislative and congressional districts, in a special session scheduled for next month. On Thursday, several advocacy groups called on lawmakers to conduct the process in a transparent manner.
“When redistricting is fair, transparent and includes everyone, our maps are more likely to be representative and secure free, fair and responsive elections for the next decade,” said Gavin Geis, executive director of Common Cause Nebraska.
The release of the redistricting data culled from the 2020 census comes more than four months later than expected due to delays caused by the pandemic. The redistricting numbers states use for redrawing congressional and legislative districts show where white, Asian, Black and Hispanic communities grew over the past decade.
It also shows where populations have become older or younger, and the number of people living in dorms, prisons and nursing homes. The data covers geographies as small as neighborhoods and as large as states. Another set of data released in April provided state population counts and showed the U.S. had 331 million residents last year, a 7.4% increase from 2010.