OKLAHOMA CITY — As the state’s new legislative and congressional redistricting maps moved one step closer to becoming law Wednesday, Democratic lawmakers continued pushing for an independent redistricting process that removes politicians going forward.
Democrats are urging their Republican counterparts, who hold a supermajority in both chambers, to lay the groundwork to establish a bipartisan, independent commission that will be tasked with drawing the new legislative and congressional districts following the 2030 census.
Such a move will provide openness and transparency, an alternative to the current legislative-led process that for decades has faced allegations of secrecy and gerrymandering regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans are in charge, said state Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Oklahoma City.
“For over a century, Oklahomans have watched the same political game being played over and over again every 10 years,” he said. “It does not matter which party is in power. Those who are in power try to rig things by drawing lines to choose the voters that they want. Oklahomans deserve better.”
House Republicans, meanwhile, advanced a set of legislative and congressional maps Wednesday with little fanfare. The maps, drawn by legislators, are controversial because they propose dividing the state’s urban core into three districts, moving a heavily Hispanic part of Oklahoma City into the largely rural Third Congressional District.
The Senate will vote on the maps later this week, then they will head to the governor.
State Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, who chaired the House’s redistricting efforts, said he’d be open to having a conversation about an independent redistricting commission when the Legislature convenes in regular session next February.
“I’m not entirely opposed to the idea,” he said. “But of course, the devil’s in the details, so let’s figure it out and have a conversation.”
But he said Oklahomans are not going to find a more transparent process than the existing one that led to the creation of the maps now working their way through the legislative process.
“I feel like we accomplished our job here,” Martinez said. “And it was very transparent and very fair, and you’re not going to find a more fair process probably anywhere in the country. So I’m proud of what we did, but I’m happy to have conversations and listen to ideas about other things, too.”
Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, said with term limits, few lawmakers will be in office 10 years from now when redistricting next comes up. Politics are fluid, and at some point Democrats will once again hold a legislative majority, she said.
“The long term best thing for the state is not to have politicians engaged in drafting their own districts,” Floyd said.
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at email@example.com.