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Group Pushing for Independent Redistricting Commission Withdraws Initiative

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A group trying to get a statewide vote on establishing an independent redistricting commission in order to prevent gerrymandering has withdrawn its initiative petition.

People Not Politicians Director Andy Moore said the short time left to gather signatures amid a spike in coronavirus cases is too great a hurdle to overcome.

State Question 810 was refiled and faced several legal challenges before the COVID-19 pandemic, delaying the date to begin collecting signatures. Secretary of State Michael Rogers also temporarily put initiative petition circulation on hold because of the pandemic.

Lawmakers will redraw Oklahoma’s legislative districts next year, but the process may be pushed back from spring to fall with the pandemic delaying collection of Census data.

"When they move forward with their redistricting plans, they need to know that the people of Oklahoma are going to be watching very closely this time and seeing how and why they draw the districts the way that they do," Moore said.

Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat said in a statement on Friday the push for an independent redistricting commission was politically motivated.

"Democrats never complained about redistricting until Republicans were in charge. Their complaints now are a totally transparent attempt by liberals and progressives to try and gain a political edge in Oklahoma," Treat said.

Moore, who calls himself an independent, said a number of red states have independent redistricting commissions.

"Just in 2018, they passed in Missouri, in Utah, for example. Almost half of the states in the U.S.  already have independent commissions A number of states will be voting on them this year," Moore said.

The Senate has hired Keith Beall as its redistricting director. Beall was the chief of staff to Republican former Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and oversaw his failed bid for governor in 2016.

The House promoted a current, nonpartisan staffer to handle redistricting work.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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