OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It’s a proposal that will impact voters beginning in next year’s mid-term election and opponents worry some voices won’t be heard.
The redistricting of Oklahoma State House and Senate seats and US Congressional seats are set to be voted on by state lawmakers during a special session later this month. Under the recently released plan, Oklahoma county could be split into *three* different congressional districts.
Thanks to delays due to COVID 19, the exact census information finally arrived in September. Lawmakers need that exact information to redraw district lines. Both State House and Senate seats were reexamined, but its the plan they unveiled today for the U.S. Congressional districts that has some shaking their heads.
“Are there a million different ways you can draw this? Absolutely, but what we had to look at was what benefits the most Oklahomans to make the puzzle fit together.” said Rep. Ryan Martinez.
The Republican from Edmond talking about the new proposed boundaries for US Congressional districts in Oklahoma.
“It required by law to have equal population in the districts.” Said OU Political Science Chair, Michael Crespin.
With the population growth in the OKC metro in the last ten years, new lines had to drawn to equal out the state’s 5 districts. In the proposed new map, most of Oklahoma county will stay in District 5. The notch cut- out to keep Tinker AFB with Ft. Sill remains but now, the southwest corner of Oklahoma county will be headed west into District 3, while all of Lincoln and much of Logan county will be added to District 5.
“The powers at be that want to cut this city up for political gain, is really hard to swallow.” Said Rep. Forrest Bennett of Oklahoma City.
House Democrats say the moves are being done to keep the seat, currently held by Stephanie Bice, in Republican hands. They say that the wedge was cut out because its largely Democrats and Hispanic. They also point out obvious geographical issues, with residents around the gold dome and the plaza district would now be voting with Oklahomans in the panhandle.
“It’s a slap in the face because the GOP is working very hard at making sure that they get re-elected, instead of representing their constituents.” Said Rep. Jose Cruz of SW Oklahoma City.
“I don’t think somebody moving from CD 5 to CD 3 is going to get less representation and a lesser member of congress.” Said Martinez
Republicans say race and political affiliation had nothing to do with the new lines. They say the new district is more compact, but some are calling this gerrymandering.
“We think of Gerrymandering of, does it look funny? Now a district doesn’t have to look funny to be a Gerrymander, but it doesn’t look that unusual as far as districts go. The courts have said except for issues dealing with race, generally they are going to stay out of it. If it’s just a pure political question you are not going to win a challenge.” Said Crespin. Republicans say this is the most transparent and publicly engaged redistricting effort in state history, citing the numerous town hall meeting that have been held. The new maps will go through the standard legislative process for approval during a special legislative session starting November 15th