Redistricting in Oklahoma

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Oklahoma

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General information
Process:   Legislative
Deadline:   May 25, 2011
Total seats to be drawn
Congress:   5
State Senate:   48
State House:   101
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This page is about redistricting in Oklahoma. Having lost a seat in 2000, the state avoided a repeat, seeing steady growth for the decade but lagging slightly behind the 9.7% national average.[1]

Urban areas, particularly their rings of suburbs, saw the best growth rates.[2]

Process

Figure 1: This map shows the Oklahoma Congressional Districts after the 2000 census.

While the state House committee tasked with redistricting had some latitude to create the guidelines, Oklahoma also has existing laws that govern the process. These include:

  • Preserving the cores of existing Districts
  • Keeping political subdivisions intact
  • Combining 'communities of interest'
  • Complying with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans drawing districts such that minority candidates are excluded

In addition to redrawing Congressional and legislative seats, Oklahoma lawmakers were set to rework boundaries for County Commissioners, the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which was last redistricted in 1968, and the state's Judicial Districts. For the last, Republican Senator Jonathan Nichols was tapped to spearhead the project.[3] All such special district lines are set to be addressed only after legislative seats are settled upon.

If lawmakers are unable to complete the process, then a commission would be responsible for the maps. The commission, revised by voters under Oklahoma Reapportionment Commission Measure, State Question 748 (2010), is comprised of 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans.

Timeline

Detailed Census data was delivered to the top officials in Oklahoma in early February.[4] Following that data, the state legislature published a schedule for a series of public hearings.[5]

Redistricting data had to be provided to state residents by April 1, 2011.[6] Lawmakers had only the 90 day session to draw boundaries for the two chambers, meaning sine die on May 27, 2011 became the deadline for House, Senate, and Congressional seats.

The timespan allotted to Congressional seats and County Commissions is longer, meaning observers should have expected the focus to shift during redistricting.[7]

2011 overview

Between 2000 and 2010, Oklahoma grew 8.75%, enough to retain her five Congressional seats but not enough to gain back the sixth seat, lost in 2001. The biggest redistricting changes were predicted in the western area of the state, which experienced several years of strong growth leading up to 2010.[8]

For the 2011 redistricting process, Oklahoma legislators formed the Oklahoma House of Representatives' Redistricting Steering Committee, which first met in late December 2010 and set several further sessions around the state through January 2011.[9][10]

Redistricting steering committees

The following state lawmakers were named to the house Committee, which began working in August 2010:[11][12]

The Committee also consulted with Arnella Karges, Redistricting Director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

The Oklahoma State Senate did not name its committee until late December 2010:[13]

Additionally, Republicans Senator Brian Bingman, the Senate President Pro Tem, and Senator Mike Schulz, his lieutenant, were named as ex officio members.[15][16] Both committees were intended to dissolve once they completed their preparatory work, at which point formal redistricting committees for each chamber would be formed.[17]

Additionally, redrawing state Supreme Court boundaries came to the front when ex-Governor Brad Henry, a Democrat, named a new justice, over objections, without waiting for new boundaries to be considered.[18] That process could have potentially added new seats and Rep. Nichols, tapped to lead judicial redistricting, could also have used a law that allowed the size of the Supreme Court, Constitutionally set at nine, to be statutorily amended.[19]

Figure 2: This map shows the Oklahoma House Districts after the 2000 census.


Figure 3: This map shows the Oklahoma Senate Districts after the 2000 census.

Redistricting panels

Once the steering committees' research and advisory role wound down, the bipartisan House Redistricting Panel took over. House Speaker Kris Steele announced the panel's composition on the final day on January 2011.[20][21]

Scenarios

Shortly after receiving detailed Census data, lawmakers settled on a plan to begin reworking districts in western Oklahoma and to work eastward, triggering a 'ripple effect' that would see each and every district in both chambers change notably.[22]

January 2011 lawsuit

A ballot initiative approved by voters in November 2010 altered the structure of Oklahoma's redistricting commission, creating a bipartisan commission that would take over a redistricting plan if the current legislative session expires with the Governor and legislature coming to an agreement.

A libertarian voter filed suit, saying the back-ups committee's inclusion on Republicans and Democrats but not Independent voters was unconstitutional.[23]

Under SQ 748, a seven member team would take over if lawmakers couldn't draw a satisfactory map. The group would feature two gubernatorial appointments along with the current Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem of the Senate; Oklahoma's Lieutenant Governor would sit on the committee as a non-voting member. The lawsuit claimed that by making no provision for minority parties and independent voters, who are still legally defined as part of Oklahoma's political class, SQ 748 violated the U.S. Constitution and should be thrown out.

A preliminary hearing was held for February 16, 2011, where both sides made oral arguments in Duffe v State Question 748, case no. 109127.[24] Arguing against the partisan panel, whose Republican and Democratic members were named by the Governor and by partisan members of the legislature, plaintiff Clark Duffe said, "We've turned the independent voter to a second-class voter."

Arguing for the state was Scott Boughton, Assistant Attorney General, who said Duffe failed to demonstrate that actual harm had been done to him or to other third party and minority voters. The matter was now up to Barbara Swimley, the Supreme Court referee who made a recommendation to the high court as to whether or not they have jurisdiction. She declined to make her ruling at the hearing.

In the meantime, Jerry Fent, counsel for Duffe, said he was considering bringing a concurrent civil rights lawsuit in the federal courts.

Legislative maps

The first series of proposed maps was set to be presented to legislators in the second half of April 2011. Two bills made it out of the House of Representatives Redistricting Committee, HB 2145 and SB 821. Sub-groups within the committee prepared regional maps, which were then combined into statewide plans.[25]

Both bills, considered "shell bills," went before a House conference committee to sort out the details.[26] On the afternoon of April 20, 2011, the House passed authorization bills for each chamber allowing lawmakers to redraw boundaries, by vote of 91-4 for the House and 87-7 for the Senate.[27]

Minority Democrats complained about their lack of a role in the process. Said Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice of the Senate Redistricting Committee, which he served on, ."..it is one of the most worthless committees. It is not like we meet and have any input. It is just window dressing and a facade."[28] Rice added that his party had shut out the GOP when they had been the minority, but still called for an independent commission: "I am not claiming that if we were in charge, we would be so altruistic and willing to do it different. The best thing for the system is to have an independent commission that looks at demographics and numbers."

House Democrats, on the other hand, largely felt they had been included in the process.[29]

On the 3rd of May 2011, the Senate approved HB 2145 on a 35-6 vote and sent it back to the House. The same day, the Congressional map also passed the Senate.[30] Back in the House, HB 2145 underwent final revisions, with a map for 101 House seats added in, and was then set for release on Friday, May 6, 2011.[31] Public hearings and debate were slated to begin the following Monday.

The map of 101 House seats was largely friendly to incumbents, making minimal changes to district boundaries and covering the entire state without placing two incumbents in one seat.[32] Yet it got strong enough support to look like it was headed for approval from the entire chamber after 23 of 24 members of the House conference committee voted for it.[33]

However, as the House cruised along in mid-May, with the Speaker and the Minority Leader trading quips about who would lead a bipartisan sing-along of 'Kumbaya' for the assembled press,[34] The Senate had yet to unveil maps, due to partisan stand-offs. Democrats complained that the Senate GOP had hired a consultant at six figures to prepare their maps.[35]

Perhaps it was the comparison to the fast-moving lower chamber, but whatever the cause for finally presenting a map, the Senate did unveil proposed district boundaries on May 10, 2011.[36] That map passed the Senate Redistricting Committee over some minority opposition on May 11, 2011 and went on the full Senate, with its 32-16 GOP edge.[37]

The same day, the House overwhelmingly passed its maps, 93-3, and sent their plan to the Senate.[38] The Senate map reduced split precincts but also created two districts where one incumbent from each major party would be vying for a single seat. Before the House panel, it got some criticism, but still passed on May 12, 2011.[39][40] Early analysis of the Senate map dwelt on the overall favorability of the map to suburban areas.[41]

When the Senate caught up, they passed their own map 38-6 on Friday, May 13, 2011 and then promptly sent it to the House, who took it up the following Monday and concurred 67-30.[42]

Overall, legislators reacted to their new districts with enthusiasm, despite differences across the state's districts.[43][44] Once the legislature recessed, Governor Fallin signed the legislative maps into law on Friday, May 20, 2011.[45][46]

SD 43 special election

Stemming directly from SB 821, a special election had to be held for Jim Reynolds' seat on the county line separating Oklahoma and Cleveland Counties. Reynolds won an election to serve as County Treasurer in the latter in November 2010, with his term beginning July 1, 2011.

While his resignation was already in the cards, he offered his seat as a candidate for redistricting in order to cause the least disruption to the state's elections. As a result, what was then SD 43 was broken up among five seats, mostly the new SD 45, by the 2012 regular elections. The interim special election would fill Reynolds' seat without actually interrupting the election schedule set to begin in 2012 under the new seats.[47]

The clock began once Governor Fallin received the resignation letter, at which point she had 30 days to announce the date of the election. On June 2, 2011, she announced the date would be October 11, 2011. Correspondingly, the special primary was calendared for August 9, 2011 and June 13-15th, 2011 became the filing period.[48]

Congressional maps

Figure 4: This map shows the HB 1527 Draft map for Oklahoma Congressional Districts after the 2010 census.

The House Redistricting Committee voted to pass a Congressional map out of committee on Thursday, April 14th, 2011 - and they did so unanimously, with all 21 members voting to go forward on HB 1527, the "Oklahoma Congressional Redistricting Act of 2011."[49]

Oklahoma stayed at five seats in the U.S. House and made, overall, small changes among those seats. The 2nd, 3rd, and 5th Districts each picked up small areas from the 4th, while the 2nd also gained land from the 1st and gave some to the 3rd. Four seats each had 750,270, with last barely deviating, at 750,271.[50]

Relative to other states, Oklahoma was both far ahead of schedule - redistricting didn't even need to be done until 2012 - and saw a remarkably amicable process.[51] With input from the five sitting Congressmen, the legislature hit the full of the full House on the 15th of April.[52]

By April 19th 2011, the HB 1527 had passed the House 88-0, with 13 members not voting. What change there was came around Tulsa and Oklahoma City, where population growth meant the cities had to give up territory to make the state's five districts balanced. Those border shifts affected Republican Congressman Tom Cole and John Sullivan. Dan Boren, the sole Democrat in the delegation, picked up some of Sullivan's old territory.[53]

After passing the Senate 37-5 on May 3, 2011, HB 1527 went to Governor Mary Fallin's desk.[54] In early May 2011, she signed off on the bill, meaning that Oklahomans knew something about their federal representation for the next decade.[55]

Costs for redistricting work were computed soon after the session's conclusion. In all, the Senate outspent the House.[56] Respectively, the upper and lower chambers spent $204,347 and $175,062, numbers that worked out to $4,257 and $1,733 per seat.

Aftermath

One of the first notable events was Dan Boren's announcement that he would not seek re-election. The state's only Democrat, he cited a wish for more time with his family and his full realization that, even with a strong chance of re-election, another term would have been a challenging "slog."[57]

Legal Issues

State Senate maps challenged

Sen. Jim Wilson (D) filed a lawsuit with the Oklahoma Supreme Court, challenging Oklahoma's State Senate redistricting plan. Wilson sought to have the plan thrown out and another drafted, arguing that the maps violated the Oklahoma Constitution. The state constitution required that "consideration shall be given to population, compactness, area, political units, historical precedents, economic and political interests, contiguous territory, and other major factors, to the extent feasible."[58] Wilson asked that the task be turned over, for the first time, to the state's bi-partisan backup redistricting commission.

Supreme Court to hear redistricting case

Oklahoma Supreme Court Referee Greg Albert met with lawyers and leaders from both sides regarding the new redistricting lines that were being drawn for the Oklahoma State Senate. The Democratic side argued that the new districts were gerrymandered by Republican representatives. The Democratic side also argued that the redistricting violated constitutional requirements regarding compactness, historical precedent, economic and political interests, and contiguous territories. The Senate committee responsible for the redistricting felt that the new divisions would be upheld in court.[59]

State may proceed with current maps

State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax decided to redraw state precincts based on the redistricting plan approved in May 2011, despite a legal challenge to the senate plan. He argued that delaying the process further would create "confusion and chaos" for voters. Besides notifying voters of their new precincts, the state must also install new voting machines and train poll workers. Ziriax indicated that there were only enough funds to redraw precincts once. If the court mandated significant changes, there might not have been enough funds to once again redraw state precincts. Ziriax intended to move forward with the plan unless ordered not to do so by the court.[60]

Senate leaders also grew impatient with the legal process. Brian Bingman (R), Senate President pro tem, filed a brief in late July 2011, asking the court to allow 2012 senate elections to proceed under the new maps. He argued that a well-reasoned decision was not possible in time for the next election.[61]

Supreme Court upholds, case to District Court

On September 1, 2011, the Oklahoma Supreme Court threw out a redistricting lawsuit filed by Sen. Jim Wilson (D). The court ruled 9-0 that the maps complied with the Oklahoma Constitution's population requirements. However, the court noted that claims of gerrymandering should be adjudicated at the state district court level. Wilson immediately announced that he would pursue the lawsuit in the District Court (Oklahoma is in the 10th District). He further noted that his attorneys never argued population levels, but focused on split communities and gerrymandering. Republicans argued that the decision is a sign that their maps were constitutional. Wilson hired a professor to draw new maps for the courts consideration.[62]

Redistricting suit renewed in District Court

After having his initial suit thrown out of the Oklahoma Supreme Court the previous week, Sen Jim Wilson (D) renewed his challenge with a state district court on September 6, 2011. In its decision on the initial case, the Supreme Court argued that district courts had jurisdiction over questions of gerrymandering.[63]

In addition to challenging the senate redistricting plan, Wilson sought a preliminary injunction to halt implementation of the new maps. Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax argued that a delay in remapping precincts could seriously disrupt elections and confuse voters.[63]

The Oklahoma State Senate attempted to join the case in defense of the plan, asking that the court dismiss the lawsuit. Even if the lawsuit failed, Wilson officially started a petition drive to overturn the plan at the ballot box. The proposed measure would have required lawmakers to redraw maps in 2013, using a bi-partisan process.[64][65][66] A motion to dismiss the case was heard on October 11, 2011 and a trial date was set for October 17, 2011.[67]

  • Court records for the case can be found here.
  • Wilson discusses the case here.

District Court dismisses, appeal promised

The District Court of Oklahoma County rejected the lawsuit filed by Senator Jim Wilson (D). The court found that the issue had already been settled by the Oklahoma Supreme Court despite the high court's recommendation that the issue be brought before a state district court. Wilson planned to file an immediate appeal, returning the issue to the Supreme Court.[68]

Wilson petition likely to fail

After repeated attempts to invalidate Oklahoma's new legislative districts, term-limited Senator Jim Wilson (D) turned to the initiative process to invalidate the maps. Unfortunately for Wilson, his plan to invalidate the maps and institute a bipartisan process appeared unlikely to garner sufficient signatures. Wilson said a late start contributed to the stunted signature collection.[69]

Supreme Court rejects appeal

On January 17, 2012, the Oklahoma Supreme Court concurred with a state district court in throwing out Senator Jim Wilson's redistricting challenge. Wilson also attempted a initiative campaign against the maps, but was unsuccessful.[70]

Reform legislation

Banz proposes shrinking the legislature

In mid-September, 2011, Rep. Gary Banz (R) proposed downsizing the state legislature. Under his proposal, the house would drop from 101 to 91 members, and the senate would drop from 48 to 43 members. Banz argued that fewer legislators could more efficiently serve constituents, using advances in technology to facilitate communication over a wider district. The proposal, if approved, would not take effect until 2021 redistricting.[71] A legislative study of the proposal found that it could save the state $1.2 million a year.[72] Banz is one of several legislators around the country to put forward such a proposal.

Ballot measures

The following measures have appeared on the Oklahoma ballot pertaining to redistricting.

History

2001 redistricting

Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[73]
Office Percentage
Congressional Districts 0.00%
State House Districts 2.05%
State Senate Districts 4.71%
Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.

Constitutional explanation

Part 4 of Article V of the Oklahoma Constitution, entitled Legislative Apportionment, details the redistricting process. Section 11A provides authority to the Legislature for redistricting. If the Legislature fails to meet the deadline, it provides for the creation of the Bipartisan Commission on Legislative Apportionment.

See also

External links

References

  1. Chickasaw News, "State's congressional representation to stay the same," March 7, 2011
  2. Enid News, "Mixed results from Census highlight need for continued projects," March 20, 2011 (dead link)
  3. FKOR.com Oklahoma City, "Sen. Jonathan Nichols tapped for leadership role in Okla. judicial reapportionment," January 3, 2011 (dead link)
  4. The Edmond Sun, "Local Census numbers set for release this week," February 14, 2011 (dead link)
  5. Tulsa Toady, "Committee on redistricting sets public hearings," February 15, 2011
  6. Ada Evening News, "Oklahoma House of Representatives hold redistricting meeting," December 14, 2010
  7. The Oklahoman, "Redistricting is high on Oklahoma legislative agenda," January 12, 2011
  8. Muskogee Phoenix, "Redistricting committee seeks public opinions at meeting," January 9, 2011
  9. Chickasha News, "Committee plans Dec. 20 meeting in Chickasha to talk redistricting," December 13, 2010
  10. Norman Transcript, "Redistricting process begins," December 16, 2010
  11. Enid News, "Public gets opportunity to talk with legislators about redistricting," December 16, 2010
  12. Oklahoma House of Representatives, "House Speaker-Designate Names Redistricting Steering Committee," August 12, 2010
  13. Bixby Bulletin, "Meeting planned to discuss redistricting of representatives," December 30, 2010 (timed out)
  14. The Daily Times, "Burrage serves as co-chair of Committee on Redistricting," February 28, 2011 (dead link)
  15. Oklahoma News9, "Senate Leader Names Redistricting Committee," December 29, 2010
  16. Capitol Beat OK, "Senator Bingman pledges fair, accurate redistricting process," December 29, 2010
  17. The Lawton Constitution, "Senate chooses Redistricting Committee," January 2, 2011
  18. NewsOK, "Oklahoma Supreme Court districts may be redrawn," January 8, 2011
  19. The Norman Transcript, "Nichols tapped for key position Senator to have role in redrawing judicial lines," January 2, 2011
  20. The McCarville Report Online, "Steele Names House Redistricting Panel," January 31, 2011
  21. Oklahoma House of Representatives, "Speaker Steele appoints redistricting committee," January 31, 2011
  22. The Lawton Constitution, "State Senate starts work redistricting," February 27, 2011 (dead link)
  23. Oklahoman, "Lawsuit challenges Oklahoma’s redistricting revision plan OK’d by voters in SQ 748," January 25, 2011
  24. NECN, "Independent Okla. voter challenges state question," February 16, 2011 (dead link)
  25. The Oklahoman, "Oklahoma legislative redistricting proposals advance," April 19, 2011
  26. NewsOK Blogs, "Oklahoma Redistricting: Draw your own maps," April 21, 2011
  27. NewsOK, "Oklahoma House passes legislative redistricting bills," April 20, 2011
  28. Tulsa World, "Redistricting draws criticism: One senator says lawmakers shouldn't be involved in the process," April 24, 2011
  29. NewsOK, "Redrawing districts isn’t an easy task," May 8, 2011
  30. Oklahoman, "Oklahoma Capitol briefs: Redistricting legislation gains Senate approval," May 4, 2011
  31. The Oklahoman, "Oklahoma House of Representatives to release redistricting map," May 6, 2011
  32. The Oklahoman, "Oklahoma House releases map of proposed new districts," May 7, 2011
  33. NewsOK, "Oklahoma House redistricting plan moves forward," May 10, 2011
  34. Tulsa Today, "Not Kumbaya, but close: House reapportionment headed to a peaceful end," May 10, 2011
  35. News-Star, "House redistricting moves forward, Senate plan stalls," May 10, 2011
  36. Muskogee Politico, "State Senate Releases Redistricting Plan," May 11, 2011
  37. NewsOK, "State Senate releases maps for proposed districts," May 12, 2011
  38. Oklahoma State News, "Okla. House Approves Chamber's Redistricting Plan," May 12, 2011
  39. NewsOK, "House panel approves Senate redistricting plan," May 13, 2011
  40. Edmond Sun, "Senate redistricting committee finalizes plan," May 13, 2011 (dead link)
  41. The Oklahoman, "Oklahoma Senate's redistricting favors suburbs," May 15, 2011
  42. Data Watch, "New Oklahoma Senate redistricting map favors suburbs, most incumbents," May 16, 2011
  43. Enid News, "Area legislators speak about state redistricting," May 18, 2011
  44. The Purce;; Register, "Redistricting changes representation," May 19, 2011 (dead link)
  45. Real Clear Politics, "Fallin signs House, Senate redistricting bills," May 20, 2011
  46. The Oklahoman, "Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signs redistricting bills," May 21, 2011
  47. The Oklahoman, "Oklahoma redistricting: A resignation and new senate boundaries in Oklahoma, Cleveland counties have lawmakers studying options," May 19, 2011
  48. The Oklahoman, "Oklahoma Senate special election will be in October," June 2, 2011
  49. News6 OK, "Proposed Oklahoma Congressional Redistricting Map Unveiled," April 14, 2011
  50. News OK, "Congressional redistricting plan wins initial approval from Oklahoma House committee," April 15, 2011
  51. Sequoyah Times, "House unveils Congressional redistricting plan," April 17, 2011 (dead link)
  52. Times Record Online, "Update: Deal Reached In Oklahoma Redistricting," April 14, 2011
  53. NewsOK, "Oklahoma House passes congressional redistricting bill," April 19, 2011
  54. NewsOK, "Oklahoma Capitol briefs: Redistricting legislation gains Senate approval," May 4, 2011
  55. The Republic, "Gov. Mary Fallin signs Oklahoma congressional redistricting bill based on 2010 Census findings," May 11, 2011
  56. Tulsa World, "Oklahoma Senate spends more than House on redistricting," May 29, 2011 (dead link)
  57. The Oklahoman, "Oklahoma's U.S. Rep. Dan Boren won't seek re-election in 2012," June 7, 2011
  58. Tulsa World, "State senator files redistricting lawsuit with Oklahoma's high court," July 8, 2011
  59. Examiner Enterprise, "Challenge to Oklahoma redistricting plan continues," July 16, 2011
  60. NewsOK.com, "Delay in redrawing precincts would confuse voters, election board official says," August 20, 2011
  61. Tulsa World, "Senate leaders say redistricting fight shouldn't affect elections," July 28, 2011 (dead link)
  62. Houston Chronicle, "Okla. Supreme Court tosses redistricting challenge," September 1, 2011
  63. 63.0 63.1 Houston Chronicle, "Okla. senator renews redistricting challenge," September 6, 2011
  64. Houston Chronicle, "Oklahoma Senate wants to join redistricting case," September 8, 2011
  65. Tulsa World, "Petition seeks to change Oklahoma's redistricting process," September 8, 2011
  66. Houston Chronicle, "Okla. senator targets redistricting with petition," September 7, 2011
  67. Tahlequan Daily Press, "Redistricting suit headed to court," September 23, 2011
  68. NewsOK, "Judge dismisses challenge to Oklahoma Senate redistricting plan," October 12, 2011
  69. Muskogee Phoenix, "Redistrict revision petition may fail," December 18, 2011
  70. NewsOK, "Oklahoma Supreme Court upholds redistricting lawsuit dismissal," January 18, 2012
  71. News OK, "Legislator offers a way to really trim government," September 15, 2011
  72. Bixby Bulletin, "Reducing number of lawmakers could save over $1 million," September 21, 2011 (dead link)
  73. National Conference of State Legislatures, “Redistricting 2000 Population Deviation Table”, accessed February 1, 2011