OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The City Council for the City of Oklahoma City will take up the issue of redistricting wards and the addition of wards over the next ten years in their Council meeting Tuesday.
The outcome could mean that ward lines would be redrawn to fit population growth in the City over the last ten years.
It could also result in two more wards being added to the City, the first time since 1966 when the wards were increased to the eight that they have at present.
The newly-released 2020 Census shows dramatic growth in the City of Oklahoma City. The result is that all wards will have far more residents than the 2010 Census.
Also, wards may have grown unevenly meaning that some City Councilors are representing far more constituents than others.
In 1970, the City’s population was 368,164 compared to the 2020 Census which shows a 17% increase to 681,054 making the City of Oklahoma City the sixth fastest growing and among the top 25 largest cities in the United States.
Here is a chart provided by Ward 6 Councilor JoBeth Hamon in a Facebook post:
Two resolutions to address that growth are up for a vote:
- Establish a mayor-appointed redistricting committee of four non-partisan residents from each of the eight wards.
- Add two more wards if redistricting is required.
Council members who are submitting both resolutions are James Cooper (Ward 2), JoBeth Hamon (Ward 6), and Nikki Nice (Ward 7).
The purpose of the process will be to equalize the numbers in each ward.
The Oklahoma City Charter requires that wards be compact and not be gerrymandered where long, artificial corridors connect parts of the city that have little in common.
The resolution states that City staff have developed redistricting criteria and a process for developing a new ward map if necessary.
Most significant are the criteria for who could and could not serve on the committee.
Overall, the criteria attempt to eliminate any kind of raw partisan redistricting. The City of Oklahoma City has non-partisan elections for City Council members.
Sensitivity to partisan gerrymandering is anticipated to be high among the Oklahoma City population since the Republican super-majority in the Oklahoma Legislature just released a dramatically gerrymandered Congressional District 5 map that cuts off most of the south side of Oklahoma City and adds it onto CD-4 which represents all of western Oklahoma and the Panhandle.
The resolution calls for the following criteria to be used in the mayor’s selection of the twelve Redistricting Committee members:
- Has not held, and does not have an immediate family member who has held, partisan elective office at the Federal, State or political subdivision level in this State in the five years immediately preceding the date of appointment to the committee;
- Has not registered, and does not have an immediate family member who has registered, as a lobbyist with the Federal Government or the State of Oklahoma in the five years immediately preceding the date of appointment to the committee;
- Has not held office or served, and does not have an immediate family member who has held office or served, as a paid staff member for a political party in the five years immediately preceding the date of appointment to the committee;
- Has not been nominated, and does not have an immediate family member who has been nominated, as a candidate for elective office by a political party in this State in the five years immediately preceding the date of appointment to the committee; and
- Has not been, and does not have an immediate family member who has been, an employee or paid consultant of the Oklahoma state legislature or U.S. Congress in the five years immediately preceding the date of appointment to the committee.
Two more wards?
The second resolution on the agenda for consideration is one that would require the addition of two more wards to the City if any redistricting was required after equalizing the numbers.
The most significant acknowledgment the resolution makes is one that has been known quite well by Councilors and the press for the last five years at least: The suburban wards are as big as – and may have a bigger population than – some current Oklahoma Senate districts.
If left alone, those wards will end up bigger than most of the newly-drawn Senate districts which are being made more geographically compact because of the increase in population.
And, certainly, if left alone, each ward would be dramatically bigger in geography and size than any Oklahoma House district.
Numbers used to justify the resolution for two more wards are:
- In 1970, after expanding to eight wards, the City’s population was 368,164, having approximately 46,020 residents in each ward.
- By the 2010 Census, 72,500 were represented by each ward.
- If the 2020 Census number for the City was divided equally among the current EIGHT wards the average being represented in each ward would have grown to approximately 85,131.
- If the 2020 Census was divided equally among TEN wards, that number evenly divided would come to approximately 68,105.
How to speak up
You may call or write to your City Council member by visiting https://www.okc.gov/government/city-council/ward-map to find info on each Council member and a tool for determining which ward you are in if you don’t know.
To come to the City Council meeting and speak in person, The City Council for Oklahoma City meets in their chamber on the third floor of City Hall at 200 N. Walker. Arrive well ahead of the 8:30 a.m. meeting time Tuesday to fill out a form in order to be called on to speak.
Last Updated November 7, 2021, 4:10 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor