Oklahoma group drops plan for redistricting state question
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A group seeking to change the way Oklahoma’s state and congressional districts are drawn announced Tuesday it is abandoning its plans to seek a public vote on the issue.
People Not Politicians Executive Director Andy Moore said the group would instead focus on making sure the redistricting process is conducted by the Legislature in a fair and transparent manner.
“They made a bunch of promises, and we intend to hold them accountable to that,” Moore said of the Oklahoma Legislature. “If they follow through on those promises, it really will be a pretty decent process. But if they back out on those promises or if they draw another round of gerrymandered maps, we won’t hesitate to refile our petition in the spring.”
Under the group’s plan, the power to draw both legislative and federal congressional districts would have been transferred from the Legislature to a bipartisan nine-member commission with an equal number of Republicans, Democrats and members unaffiliated with either party selected by a group of retired state Supreme Court and appellate judges.
The group initially launched an initiative petition effort in October 2019 to get the question on the ballot this year, but legal challenges and then coronavirus-related delays in signature gathering made that impossible.
The proposal was fiercely opposed by leaders in the Republican-led Legislature who reiterated Tuesday they thought the initiative petition was flawed.
“Regardless of what some may say, the redistricting process in Oklahoma is not broken,” Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat said in a statement. “Senators take our responsibility seriously to uphold the constitution. That is why we are soliciting the public’s input and taking steps in our process to ensure the public’s important role in redistricting.”
Among the steps Treat said the Senate planned are public hearings at locations around the state, the public submission of proposed maps of state legislative and congressional districts and public notice before any actions taken by the redistricting committee.
On Monday, House Speaker Charles McCall announced the hiring of former Speaker T.W. Shannon to serve as a public liaison for the redistricting committee and solicit public input on the process.