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Oklahoma at the beginning of the 21st century


David Eisenhower
David Eisenhower

In 1960 about 30 percent of Oklahoma voters lived in the Oklahoma City or Tulsa metropolitan areas, yet state political power remained in rural areas because the legislature, since 1910, had refused to adjust political district boundaries to match the redistribution of population. In 1960 one voter in the Oklahoma Panhandle had as much power in the legislature as 80 residents of Oklahoma County. As a result, the rural-dominated legislature jealously controlled nearly all state employment, funneled public money to their sparsely populated districts, and kept the sale of alcohol illegal. In 1960 voters rejected an initiative to reapportion the legislature, but the issue reemerged in 1962, when a federal court in Oklahoma City ruled that the political districting system discriminated against city residents.

The next year a reapportionment plan passed by the legislature was struck down by a federal court tribunal, which in 1964 ordered Governor Henry Bellmon to hold a special election along the court’s own reapportionment plan that increased urban representation.

Oklahoma voted mainly for Republican presidential candidates after 1952, voting for Republican presidential candidate Dwight David Eisenhower in 1952 and in 1956 and for Republican Richard Nixon in 1960. However, in 1964, Democratic presidential candidate Lyndon Baines Johnson won in Oklahoma when he defeated the U.S. senator from Arizona, Barry Goldwater. In 1962 Oklahoma elected its first Republican governor, Henry Bellmon.

Support for the Republican Party increased when the economy weakened in the 1980s and the Democratic state government suddenly confronted a staggering deficit. After two bitterly contested tax increases that decade, angry taxpayers amended the state constitution to limit legislative terms and to require public approval of nearly all tax increases, changes that were engineered by the state Republican Party.

Scandals further soured voters with the Democratic Party. The largest involved the state’s county commissioners. Most common was the apparently standard practice of exchanging contracts for bribes with road builders and suppliers. Between 1977 and 1987 a total of 246 sitting public officials were convicted of assorted federal crimes. Others were eventually convicted of state offenses. Among the latter were two Democratic governors and several legislators, mostly Democrats, whose misdeeds ranged from election rigging to drug trafficking.

On April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City became the site of one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in the history of the United States. A massive bomb exploded in a truck in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people, destroying much of the building, and damaging surrounding structures. Timothy McVeigh was charged with 11 counts of conspiracy and murder by the federal government. His trial took place in Denver, Colorado, beginning in April 1997. In June McVeigh was convicted on all charges. He received a death sentence and was executed in 2001. The trial of a co-defendant, Terry Nichols, resulted in a verdict of guilty on charges of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter, but Nichols was acquitted of the charge of murder. He was sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors and defenders agreed that McVeigh alone had taken the bomb to Oklahoma City and detonated it. "Oklahoma" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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