House approves congressional redistricting plan favored by GOP
The congressional redistricting plan Democrats are panning as gerrymandering easily passed the Oklahoma House on Wednesday.
The vote on House Bill 1102 was 75–19, with no Democrats in favor and one Republican, Collinsville Rep. Wendi Stearman, opposed.
The plan moves southern parts of Oklahoma City with large Hispanic populations into the mainly rural Third District, which stretches from the panhandle to Osage County. Those parts of Oklahoma City are replaced with heavily conservative areas that make the Fifth District less competitive.
"Just because this process is the most transparent it's ever been, it does not mean that it's good enough. So, when I come to you as an elected representative of a historically disadvantaged area and tell you that these congressional maps will hurt my community, that they are textbook gerrymandering and an attempt to dilute the influence of the minority community that I belong to, I sure hope you're listening," said Rep. José Cruz, who's among the Oklahoma City lawmakers with a district being moved.
Cruz’s constituents would be in the same congressional district as Rep. John Pfeiffer’s (R-Orlando). He debated for the bill after Cruz spoke against it.
"I think we've found ourselves at a crossroads with — at least I have — with people saying, 'You didn't listen to me,' and what they're really meaning is, 'You didn't do exactly what I wanted you to do,'" Pfeiffer said.
Rep. Forrest Bennett took issue with a Republican leader’s claim that his Oklahoma City House district and Guymon actually have things in common, like large Spanish-speaking populations.
"And the number of times I get accused of identity politics, and this is what we're talking about? The Hispanic community is not monolithic. They don't just care about whether or not you can speak Spanish. They care about jobs, public safety, schools," Bennett said.
House Redistricting Chair Ryan Martinez was among the Republican lawmakers defending the proposal as protecting diversity, because all five congressional districts have urban and rural areas.
"I do think it would behoove Oklahomans to have somebody in Congress that represents them that has to take urban interests into account as well as rural interests. I know I want that, because guess what? Oklahoma is a rural/urban/suburban state," Martinez said.
The redistricting proposal now goes to the Senate. The legislature is on track to conclude its special session on redistricting by the end of the week.