OKLAHOMA CITY – (Free Press) State Democrats introduced two pieces of legislation on Monday, the first day of the Oklahoma Legislature’s Special Session for redistricting. One proposes an alternative congressional district map and the other proposes an independent redistricting commission.
Democrats filed Senate Bill 6X, which proposes their own congressional district map that prioritizes compactness and keeping communities of interest together. The Democrats’ proposed map would make some minor adjustments to the existing congressional district boundaries.
SB 6X, authored by Senate Democratic Leader Kay Floyd, failed in the Senate Redistricting Committee meeting Tuesday morning with a vote of 3-11.
The proposed map was drawn by People Not Politicians, a nonpartisan organization that originally worked to initiate an independent and impartial redistricting process in an effort to end gerrymandering.
“We took one of the submissions done by People’s Not Politicians and they had done a lot of public feedback tours and gathering of data and information before they submitted their map, so we used that as our template,” Sen. Julia Kirt, co-author of SB 6X, told Free Press. “It focuses on keeping Oklahoma County more whole, which I think would more accurately reflect people in our communities.”
Under the proposed map:
- 93 percent of Oklahomans would remain in their current congressional district.
- 72 of the 77 counties would remain whole.
- Fort Sill and Tinker Air Force base will remain in the same district.
- Rural districts would remain rural and urban districts would remain urban.
Democrats have criticized the GOP-majority’s proposed map as an obvious case of gerrymandering, especially with the proposed new 5th Congressional District. Under the Republicans proposed map, 56 percent of Oklahoma County’s Hispanic residents will be removed from CD-5 and placed into a rural, congressional district. Republicans said their main priority in drawing the maps was to protect military installations and to make districts more compact.
“Our big thing was it doesn’t have to be the proposal that we put forward, but there are a lot of ways to draw the congressional maps to represent our communities better,” Kirt said. “We just thought it especially unfair the way they [the Republican majority] carved out South Oklahoma City to move it into a new district.”
Calls for Independent Redistricting Process
The House and Senate Democrats held a joint press conference Monday afternoon to present their proposed maps and call for an independent, bipartisan redistricting commission.
Rep. Forrest Bennett, Rep. José Cruz, and Sen. Michael Brooks-Jimenez all represent districts that are directly affected by the majority’s proposed map and the splitting of CD-5. Each member got to speak on these changes to their district during the press conference.
“These congressional maps show the clear need for an independent redistricting commission in our state because the people that suffer the most in a situation like this are my constituents,” Cruz said during the conference.
Cruz translated his speech in Spanish as well to ensure that all members of the community could understand what was being said.
“I don’t think that this is fair and I think that this illustrates exactly why politicians should not be allowed to draw these lines,” Sen. Brooks-Jimenez said. “Because inevitably it’s going to become inherently political.”
Rep. Andy Fugate authored the joint resolution, HJR 1001, which amends the current redistricting commission and creates the Citizens’ Independent Redistricting Commission. The resolution is unlikely to gain any traction in the Republican-controlled legislature.
“Politicians should not draw their own maps, period, ” Fugate said during the conference. “In the United States politicians don’t choose voters, voters choose politicians.”
Update – 11-17-21 – HJR 1001 was never heard in committee and so will not receive any further action by the Legislature.
Special Session 2021
The Oklahoma Legislature convened a special session Monday to establish congressional and legislative district maps that will be in effect for the next decade.
Like any other legislative bill, the proposals will receive committee and floor votes. The plans must be approved by both legislative chambers and signed by the governor to become law.
Lawmakers are expected to finalize their redistricting work by the end of the week. The new maps are usually approved during the regular session in May, however, a special session was required due to the delayed release of the latest 2020 Census data.
Last Updated November 18, 2021, 7:12 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor