Columbus grows as population in rural Ohio shrinks

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s heavily Democratic state capital has grown significantly over the past decade as the state’s traditionally Republican rural and Appalachian regions have lost residents, Thursday showed. new census figures.

Figures released by the US Census Bureau show Columbus gained nearly 120,000 residents between 2010 and 2020, and Franklin County gained about 160,000, even as 33 of the state’s 88 counties lost population. population. Neighboring counties added tens of thousands more, including two — Union and Delaware — that grew by 20% or more over the decade.

Cincinnati added more than 12,000 residents and its suburbs also grew, reflecting the nationwide trend with the fastest growth occurring in the nation’s largest cities and their suburbs, while populations in many rural areas declined in the 2020 census.

But not every town in Ohio grew. Cleveland experienced a devastating loss of more than 24,000 residents, though its suburbs mostly held out or grew. Toledo followed the same pattern, losing 16,000 residents even as two bordering counties experienced strong growth. Akron, Youngstown, Canton and Dayton also lost population.

Former U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich, candidate for mayor of Cleveland, said the decline is “both a wake-up call and a call to action for political, civic, corporate and community leaders are taking dramatic and innovative steps to reverse this decades-long trend.” ”

He touted the city’s many strengths — including Lake Erie, world-class medical and cultural institutions and major league sports — but said its challenges must be met.

“Unless we can effectively address these negatives, our city will continue to shrink, get poorer, sicker, older, more distressed and more desperate,” he said in a statement.

Overall, Ohio’s population has grown a meager 2.3% since 2010, compared to national growth of 7.4%. This discrepancy had already costs the state a congressional districtbringing the total from 16 to 15.

How these new districts will be established depends on the Republican-led state legislature and a new GOP-dominated Ohio redistricting commission. Cities in Ohio tend to lean heavily toward Democrats, while shrinking rural and Appalachian parts of the state have recently leaned toward Republicans.

The commission was created under new map-drawing rules approved by Ohio voters, intended to combat partisan gerrymandering. They demand that the independent commission finish redrawing legislative districts by September 1. There is a September 30 deadline for the General Assembly to complete a new map of the state’s congressional districts.

The Equal Districts Coalition, which represents nearly 30 advocacy organizations and unions, called on the panel to act immediately now that the data is in hand.

“For too long, Ohioans have been excluded from the political process,” said Jeniece Brock, vice chair of the Ohio Citizens Redistricting Commission. “We finally have a chance to fix this issue with fair cards – but only if our process is transparent and allows all of us to have a say in how our future is mapped out.”

Michael Finney, chief financial and administrative officer of Ohio University, which holds the state data contract, said it would take about two weeks to process the data and forward it to the Legislative Services Commission. The process involves merging precinct maps, historical voting data and new census figures, he said.

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