Republican redistricting leaders release congressional boundaries proposal, which could benefit GOP candidates
Republican leaders of Oklahoma’s process to redraw legislative district boundaries released on Monday their proposed congressional district map, which appears to give an edge to GOP candidates at the federal level.
Redistricting committee House leader Rep. Ryan Martinez said 87% of Oklahomans will stay in the same district. So will Tinker Air Force Base and Fort Sill, along with their surrounding communities.
"This was one of the biggest items of feedback that we received through public feedback, was the value of protecting Oklahoma's military bases, and to keep those communities and those bases in the same congressional districts made a lot of sense," Martinez said.
While Oklahoma City will continue to have three representatives in the U.S. House, shifts in how the city is split would make the Fifth District a harder play for Democrats.
Current U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice defeated then-incumbent Democrat Kendra Horn in a close election in 2020. Areas with large Latino populations that helped Horn win Oklahoma County are being moved to the mostly rural Third District, which stretches all the way to the panhandle and is represented by U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas. That includes most of State Rep. Forrest Bennett’s House district.
"So, the bulk of the Hispanic community in Oklahoma City's voice being taken out of the district where they would have a larger voice in controlling their own destinies as far as their congressional representation goes to being diluted in this district that really takes almost half of the state just does not make sense to me and it's going to be hard to convince me otherwise," Bennett said.
Meanwhile, heavily Republican areas are being brought into the Fifth District.
Redistricting committee leader Sen. Lonnie Paxton said Monday the proposal is the map lawmakers will vote on during a special session on redistricting that starts in two weeks.
"Nothing's going to be fast-tracked. It'll all be going through the process just like any other bill during the legislative session would. So, we expect to be here all the way from Monday through Friday," Paxton said.
In northeast Oklahoma, the First District is becoming more compact because of urban population growth. The proposed map moves Washington County from the First District to the Second District
Martinez said concerned Oklahomans should contact their lawmakers. Andy Moore is the executive director of People Not Politicians, a group pushing for redistricting by an independent commission. He said the state is falling short by not allowing public comment now.
"For Oklahoma to solicit feedback sometimes a year before we received the Census data and then to present the maps and say, 'OK, this is it. We're not going to change it any more,' is a slap in the face to the public who has been paying attention and cares about this," Moore said.
Asked about a potential legal challenge to the map, Moore said "all options are on the table."