OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday signed the state’s new legislative and congressional maps into law, just days after lawmakers wrapped up a five-day special session on the topic.
Stitt also approved new Dec. 31 residency requirements for candidates seeking legislative and county commissioner posts in 2022.
The new congressional maps keep 87% of Oklahomans in the same district and protect multibillion dollar investments made in Oklahoma’s military installations, said state Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma, the president pro tem.
“The Senate’s redistricting process was open, transparent and incorporated public input,” he said in a statement. “The maps are better for all those reasons.”
Oklahoma lawmakers are required to redraw the state’s voting districts every decade following the U.S. Census count.
The congressional maps expand Oklahoma County’s congressional representation from two to three, dividing the state’s urban core. They also double the size of Oklahoma’s Fifth Congressional District from three counties to six. They place Midwest City and Tinker Air Force Base in the Fourth Congressional District along with Fort Sill, and move a heavily Hispanic part of Oklahoma City into the Third Congressional District.
They also moved Washington County from the state’s First Congressional District to the Second. That district now encompasses more than two dozen counties in eastern Oklahoma.
Andy Moore, head of People Not Politicians, said the group has only had a few weeks to review the maps, but are talking to the people who live in the communities most impacted by redistricting, such as south Oklahoma City.
The coalition aims to ensure that the redrawing of the state’s voting districts is free of partisan influence, and held dozens of its own meetings to discuss the best ways to realign the state’s voting districts.
“(We’re) trying to talk to our supporters, and just the general public about how they feel about the maps, and what options might be available to us in the future, either in the short run or the long run,” Moore said.
He said a lot of Oklahomans are starting to realize that redistricting is important, but the process was overshadowed in large part by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we look forward to the next 10 years, I think a lot of folks were dissatisfied with the outcome of the process and would like to see it done differently in the future,” Moore said.
He said lawmakers made some “really positive” changes to the redistricting process, such as taking public comment ahead of time, but Moore said when legislators released the final maps in early November, they refused to hold any hearings allowing for final public feedback ahead of the adoption.
“A lot of people realized some things need to be changed here,” Moore said, adding that people believed the congressional map was not ideal, but now that they have seen it, they couldn't weigh in.
"And that rubs folks the wrong way,” he said.
He said his group is either looking at encouraging lawmakers to make appropriate changes going forward or, if they’re unwilling, then they’re weighing a ballot initiative that could lead to the creation of an independent redistricting commission.
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at email@example.com.