OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Accusations of gerrymandering and dark money donations are front and center, as Oklahoma lawmakers are back at the capitol this week for a special session to rework Oklahoma voting districts.
Every 10 years, lines for all the state and US congressional seats have to be adjusted as new population numbers come in. Those new districts setting up battle lines between Republicans and Democrats.
“I think we have come to a very good consensus of something that makes sense, that is fair and transparent and it’s what the people of Oklahoma have asked for,” said Rep. Ryan Martinez of Edmond.
With 2020 Census data coming in late thanks to the pandemic, Governor Kevin Stitt calling a special session to pass bills to redistrict state senate and house seats but to also redraw lines for U.S. Congressional districts.
Republicans already had unveiled their controversial plans for the hotly contested 5th US Congressional district.
They have come under fire for cutting out of a largely Hispanic chunk out of Oklahoma County and sending it to US County District Three in the west.
“This is a textbook case of gerrymandering,” said Rep. Jose Cruz of South OKC.
But Republican redistricting leaders say they worked 18 months to get public input from 30 town hall meeting across the state.
“Race is not something that is looked at it’s a simple numbers game it’s a puzzle and a math equation,” said Martinez.
“The congressional districts are going to be a problem,” said Sen. Kay Floyd.
Democrats submitting their own map in a senate bill. They say it keeps more of Oklahoma County intact.
“The map itself will result in 93% of Oklahomans being able to stay in their current congressional district,” said Floyd.
“The Democrats have taken a cue from a dark money group that is funded by sources that, we don’t know, my guess is probably not Oklahomans,” said Martinez.
Republicans accusing Democrats of taking their map from special interest groups outside of the state, but Democrats pushing right back – saying their map came from public submissions and the GOP map had origins outside of Oklahoma.
“This map was far more vetted and had far more public submission and public comment than the one that the GOP has proposed,” said Rep. Emily Virgin, House Minority Leader.
Democrats also say a good way to fix the fights over the district lines is to approve a bill, that will be heard in Oklahoma State House committee tomorrow, that would create a state question to then establish an independent redistricting committee.
“Do we want to change the constitution so that politicians stop picking their voters?” said Rep. Andy Fugate of Del City.
Republicans say they don’t think anybody else could do anything better than they plan they have proposed.
Both the State House and Senate will run bills in committee tomorrow.
Final legislation is slated to be approved on Friday.