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Political Consequences

The post-war population stream into the larger towns and cities generated major political consequences as well. The state constitution required the legislature to redraw house and senate district lines each decade, in accord with shifting population patterns. The intent was to insure that every Oklahoma citizen’s vote possessed the same weight in electing their state representatives and senators.

For more than half a century, however, the legislature had ignored this law. In the words of historian Brad Agnew, “Protests from Oklahoma's urban areas had fallen on deaf ears in a legislature dominated by rural interests.”

Critics cited the situation of Tulsa as a prime example of what their inaction had wrought. The state’s second-largest city, with a population of nearly 350,000 people, had the same number of state senators—one—as did the Panhandle county of Beaver, with a population of 7,000. Oklahoma City and Oklahoma County had one senator as well—and 440,000 people.

Nonetheless, in 1961, the massive rural legislative majority attempted to permanently enshrine its dominance through a constitutional referendum. It did so against the veto of Governor Edmondson, a statewide vote of the people, voiding by the State Supreme Court, and rejection by the State Election Board. Still, the legislature kept its wildly unconstitutional apportionment scheme in place.