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Group seeking redistricting question withdraws petition

July 17, 2020 GMT

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A group that wants a bipartisan commission, instead of state lawmakers, to redraw Oklahoma’s legislative districts announced Friday they are withdrawing their initiative petition, citing legal challenges and delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

People Not Politicians needed to collect 178,000 signatures from registered voters to qualify the question for the ballot, but the secretary of state halted signature-gathering efforts due to the coronavirus outbrea k. Republican legislative leaders also fiercely opposed the plan, and several plaintiffs sued to stop the initiative from moving forward.

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Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat said the idea that redistricting in Oklahoma is unfair is a “made-up narrative.”

“Democrats never complained about redistricting until Republicans were in charge,” the Oklahoma City Republican said in a statement. “Their complaints now are a totally transparent attempt by liberals and progressives to try and gain a political edge in Oklahoma.”

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in May that the group could proceed with its initiative petition. But with signature gathering halted, it would have been unlikely to qualify the measure for the ballot.

People Not Politicians Executive Director Andy Moore said he will continue advocating for changes to the redistricting process.

“The fight for fair maps in Oklahoma is far from over,” he said.

Under the plan, the power to draw both legislative and federal congressional districts would be transferred from the Legislature to a bipartisan nine-member commission. The commission would include an equal number of Republicans, Democrats and members unaffiliated with either party, and they would be selected by a group of retired state Supreme Court and appellate judges.