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Local & Regional

Democrats' redistricting proposal shelved on day 2 of Oklahoma legislature's special session

Democrats’ congressional redistricting proposal fell on a party-line committee vote on the second day of special session.

Republican Senators spent the better part of an hour Tuesday morning asking questions about Democrats' map laid out in Senate Bill 6, which keeps most of Oklahoma County together as the Fifth District instead of moving a portion of southwest Oklahoma City to the rural Third District. Ultimately, Republicans voted down the bill, 11–3.

Democrats’ proposal kept military installations together in the Fourth District but put the Tinker Air Force Base community of Midwest City into the Fifth. Sen. John Michael Montgomery told Minority Leader Kay Floyd giving the city and Tinker the same representative has potentially saved them both from devastating base closures.

"Why do we want to change what's frankly worked out for 40 years for the Tinker and Midwest City area?" Montgomery said.

"So, my understanding on some of the changes that have been proposed for Congressional District 5 is to carve it up so that we have the area, my district, will have three representatives. So, if that's good for my district, why wouldn't having two members of Congress represent that area be good for that part of their district?" Floyd said.

Sen. Greg McCortney read a letter from Citizen Pottawatomi Nation leaders concerned separating them from the Oklahoma City metro area would hamper their progress on infrastructure, public safety and other matters.

"Any adjustment of Pottawatomie County's current status within the congressional district would be highly disruptive to our work in these areas," McCortney read from the letter.

Floyd said she had not seen the tribe's letter.

Floyd said at least Democrats’ proposal kept communities together; her constituents won’t fare the same way under Republicans’ favored plan.

"There are literally neighborhoods that are cut in two. Common interest that was between schools is gone, churches on one side or the other," Floyd said.

The congressional redistricting plan GOP leaders announced two weeks ago advanced from a House committee on Tuesday. House Bill 1002 passed 21–3, solely on Republican support.

Other redistricting bills passed out of the Senate committee with bipartisan support, including one to adjust state senate district boundaries drawn before census data was available. Sen. Lonnie Paxton said the biggest differences are in eastern Oklahoma.

"Eastern part of the state, the estimates were off by around 50,000 people. So, when you're looking at the areas kind of east of Tulsa, south of Tulsa, that's the areas where we had to work the hardest in order to get those maps within the compliance," Paxton said.

House Bills aimed at COVID vaccine mandates have not been scheduled for a committee hearing. A House resolution calling for a statewide vote on establishing an independent redistricting commission has not been scheduled for a hearing, either.