OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The Oklahoma City metro area will gain one additional Oklahoma House and Senate seat in proposed redistricting maps to reflect significant population shifts from rural to urban areas.
Oklahoma lawmakers released the legislative redistricting plan for the next decade in a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
For the first time in the state’s history, Oklahoma lawmakers encouraged all Oklahomans to participate in the redistricting process. In a joint effort, the House and Senate held 22 virtual town hall meetings in the past several months to solicit public input during the process.
The Legislature also heard from several Oklahomans who submitted a map proposal on April 15 in a public comment session at the State Capital.
“This process has been very open and transparent,” Rep. Ryan Martinez said during the press conference. “These districts truly belong to the people of Oklahoma and their input was taken into consideration.”
Martinez said Oklahoma lawmakers made it a priority to consider communities of interest, compactness, and public input during the process of redrawing district lines.
The House plan preserved three African American majority districts and one Hispanic majority district.
More compact districts
One significant aspect of this decade’s redistricting process especially for towns and urban areas has been to draw lines according to natural communities and neighborhoods that have more in common with each other.
A problem for adequate representation in Oklahoma City in the past has been the gerrymandering of urban districts to collect more voters of one party while ignoring the neighborhoods and natural communities within the larger urban area.
House District 36
The OKC metro area will gain a House seat, House District 36, under the proposed redistricting plan due to population growth in the metro area. HD 36 will be relocated to eastern Oklahoma county and the northeastern corner of Cleveland county. The new district will include the cities of Luther, Harrah, and Choctaw.
HD 36, currently covers portions of Osage and Tulsa counties and is represented by Rep. Sean Roberts who is in his final term and will not be eligible for reelection due to term limits.
Martinez said the decision to move HD 36 to the eastern part of Oklahoma county was based on several public suggestions and comments made during the town hall redistricting meetings.
“We created this district to give Eastern Oklahoma more cohesive representation,” said Martinez. “This was directly in response to comments that were made at the first town hall meeting in Oklahoma City back in December.”
This is the proposed new District 36:Prop-HD_36web
Senate District 18
Senate District 18, which currently covers parts of Cherokee, Wagner, Canadian, and Cherokee counties, will be moved into the west OKC metro area as a result of population increases in Oklahoma and Canadian counties.
The district will straddle the Oklahoma-Canadian county line.
Over the last two decades far west Oklahoma County and far east Canadian County have seen dramatic growth swelling previously rural, farming areas with typical suburban-style developments and exurban acreages.
This is the proposed new Senate District 18:Prop-District_18
Next process phase
Oklahoma lawmakers say they will hold five more town halls during the summer, one in each congressional district, in order to hear more from Oklahoma residents about what they would like to see in the new congressional maps.
Legislative districts are redrawn every 10 years by state legislators following the U.S. Census Bureau data. Due to COVID-related delays, the Census survey data will not be available until the end of September. As a result, the House will redesign maps based on population estimates in the 2015-2019 American Community Survey data.
The House will be able to make final adjustments to the maps during a special session, possibly in October, if the Census data is substantially different from the American Community Survey which is Census Bureau data that are continually updated in the decade between the official Census.
Legislative maps must be approved by the typical legislative process. The maps will be introduced by the House and Senate redistricting committees week beginning April 26.
Last Updated April 23, 2021, 8:16 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor