Census: Metro areas gained in Nebraska, rural areas lost

By GRANT SCHULTE
Associated Press

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 will shift more political power to both cities, based on 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. The Omaha metro area, which includes surrounding counties, is now on pace to hit 1 million people by 2024, said David Drozd, research coordinator for the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Center for Public Affairs Research

Lancaster County also grew by 13%, from 285,407 in 2010 to 322,608 last year, according to the data.

Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy counties now account for 56% of the state's overall population, Drozd said. He said the gains will translate into an urban majority in the Nebraska Legislature, with big cities controlling an estimated 27 of the 49 seats.

Overall, 24 of Nebraska’s 93 counties gained at least some population. But the big three were the only ones that grew by more than 10%.

“That is quite a differential compared to all the other counties,” Drozd said.

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.

Drozd said he was surprised more small counties didn't post at least modest growth, as often happens every decade. He said underreporting may be a factor, because many of the smaller counties had a lower response rate.

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.

Danielle Conrad, a former state senator who served on the 2011 redistricting committee, said it's critical that lawmakers approach the process with the goal of creating districts that give equal influence to residents throughout the state.

“The maps Nebraska's state senators develop this fall will shape our lives and communities for the the next 10 years,” said Conrad, now the director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska.

Statewide, Nebraska's population increased by 7.4%, to 1,961,504.

The state's Hispanic or Latino population grew by 40.2%, from 9.2% of the population in 2010 to 12%. The Black population grew from 4.5% of the population to 4.9%.

The white population in Nebraska in 2020 was 78.4% of the population, down from 86.1% in 2010.

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.

Colorado's redistricting to hit high gear with Census data

By JAMES ANDERSON
Associated Press

DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s independent redistricting commissions finally received the U.S. Census data they need Thursday to rush to completion their year-end mission: Crafting new congressional districts, including a new U.S. House seat, and new state legislative districts for the rest of the decade.

What they're finding is a rapidly-growing Colorado that's increasingly urban, less white and whose Hispanic and Latino residents account for more than a fifth of the state's population — and are demanding the political power to match.

Already under pressure to meet state constitutional deadlines, the commissions now have the complex demographic data needed to craft maps, hold public hearings and submit them for approval by the state Supreme Court.

Once all that’s done, county clerks in Colorado’s 64 counties must draw new precincts in time to prepare for a 2022 elections calendar that includes precinct caucuses, state assemblies, primaries and general elections for the state’s eight U.S. representatives, a U.S. Senate seat, state lawmakers and a multitude of local offices.

Thursday's release of the redistricting data culled from the 2020 Census came more than four months later than expected due to delays caused by the pandemic.

An earlier data set released in April showed Colorado’s population rose by 14.8% between 2010 and 2020, or from 5 million to nearly 5.8 million, entitling the state to its first new congressional district in 20 years. Across the 50 U.S. states, total population reached 331.4 million in 2020, a 7.4% increase from 2010.

The Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro area added more than 420,000 residents to reach more than 2.9 million people, up nearly 17% from 2010. Colorado Springs’ metro area jumped 17% over the decade, totaling more than 755,000 people. To the north, the Fort Collins and Greeley metro regions jumped by roughly 20% and 30%, respectively, as the Democrat-leaning Front Range drew young, Latino, Black and college-educated residents.

That growth has produced a preliminary congressional map placing a new eighth House district in the northern Denver metro region.

Several rural counties in eastern, southern and northern Colorado lost residents, including Baca, Bent, Cheyenne, Costilla, Kit Carson, Las Animas, Moffett, Prowers, Otero and Yuma — and those counties are likely to remain grouped together in sweeping, Republican-leaning congressional districts.

Statewide, those who identify as white alone declined as a share of total residents, from 70% in 2010 to 65% in 2020. Nationally, the share of the white population fell from 63.7% in 2010 to 57.8% in 2020, the lowest on record, driven by falling birthrates among white women compared with Hispanic and Asian women.

Some 22% of Colorado residents identify as Hispanic or Latino, roughly the same percentage as a decade earlier. Hispanics and Latinos represent the biggest share of residents in three counties — Alamosa, Conejos and Costilla — compared to two counties a decade ago.

Advocates for Colorado’s Hispanic and Latino residents this week argued for maps recognizing their economic and political diversity and ensuring their growing share of Colorado’s population is reflected in its politics.

“These Census numbers are an important reminder that Latinos must be better and more fairly represented everywhere, from classrooms to corporate boardrooms, and from newsrooms to the halls of power where decisions that impact our communities are being made,” Democratic state Sen. Julie Gonzales of Denver said in a statement.

Nearly 5% of Colorado residents identify as Black or African American alone, compared to roughly 4% in 2010.

Democrats hold a 4-3 edge over Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation. They also control both legislative chambers, the governor’s and other state elected offices, and Colorado’s two U.S. Senate seats.

The redistricting commissions were created after voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2018. The vote removed the task from lawmakers, political parties and the governor to make the process less partisan. The congressional commission consists of four Democrats, four Republicans and four unaffiliated residents — none of them current or recent officeholders.

Census: Wyoming grew slowly and remains US' smallest state

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming remained the least-populated state and grew more slowly than all but a couple others from 2010 to 2020, according to U.S. Census figures released Thursday.

Only Michigan and Connecticut grew slower than Wyoming. Ohio grew at the same rate. Three states — Illinois, Mississippi and West Virginia — lost population, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.

Although Wyoming's population grew 2.4%, from 563,626 to 576,851 people, only nine of the state's 23 counties grew.

Teton and Laramie counties — home, respectively, of booming Jackson Hole and the state capital of Cheyenne — tied with population growth of 9.6%.

Lincoln County, on the border with rapidly growing Utah, came in third with an 8.1% increase.

Sheridan (6.2%) and Natrona (6%) counties were the fourth- and fifth-fastest growing. Park County grew 5%, Albany County 2.1%, and Campbell and Crook counties less than 2% each.

Once-booming Sublette County in western Wyoming's gas patch lost almost 15% of its population over the decade. Washakie County was next with a nearly 10% loss. Carbon County lost 8.5%, and Weston and Goshen Counties both lost more than 5%.

Wyoming remained majority white while the state’s Hispanic or Latino population grew from 8.9% of the state in 2010 to 10.2% in 2020. People who identified as two or more races grew from 1.5% to 4.1%.

Wyoming remains far too small to pick up a second U.S. House seat, like neighboring Montana. Still, the numbers will help allocate a variety of state and federal dollars to communities.

Wyoming receives nearly $1 billion in population-dependent federal dollars every year for programs including Medicaid, housing vouchers and food assistance.

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