OKLAHOMA — The state’s urban areas will pick up additional seats in the Legislature under new House and Senate redistricting maps unveiled Wednesday.
Oklahoma lawmakers said they likely won’t attempt to redraw the state’s congressional maps until fall — after the U.S. Census Bureau is expected to release final numbers from last year’s population count that’s required every decade.
The state Constitution requires the Legislature to adopt new legislative districts by the end of session, so lawmakers said Wednesday that they relied on the best data available — the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey from 2015-2019 — to set the new House and Senate district boundaries for the state’s growing population that’s estimated to top 3.9 million people.
State Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, said his chamber was committed to “conducting the most transparent and inclusive redistricting process” in state history and maps were drawn with public feedback from 22 town halls held across the state and after talking with lawmakers about what makes sense for districts.
Heading into the process, the Republican-controlled Legislature had faced criticism that it would attempt to gerrymander districts.
Martinez said he doesn’t think there would be any place for somebody to say something was done for political purposes.
“This was about ... making districts that were fair (and) seemed to make sense to the public, without taking into consideration any political data,” he said. “That being said, I do believe that both parties were equally consulted and had chances to visit about this process. So I’m very confident that this was done in the most fair and transparent way, in state history, quite frankly.
The three Black-majority districts — House Districts 73, 97 and 99 — and one Hispanic majority district — 89 — were retained.
He said the House plan tried to make small towns whole by following municipal boundaries and to organize districts in a more meaningful manner with regard to rural, urban and suburban areas. When possible, the new map takes into account school district boundaries and uses main roads, rivers and other physical features for distinct boundaries, he said.
Only one House district will have all new constituents — that’s House District 36 — which was moved from Osage County to eastern Oklahoma County and will consist of Luther, Jones, Choctaw and the northwestern corner of Cleveland County. State Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, who currently represents the House District 36, is term limited.
In the state Senate, each new district should have about 81,935 people in it — up from the approximately 78,000 people, said State Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle.
Senate District 18, which is currently located southeast of Tulsa, will be moving to the Oklahoma City metro area to accommodate “the incredible amount of growth” that’s happening in the Canadian and Oklahoma county areas, Paxton said. Kim David, R-Porter, who is term limited, currently holds that Senate seat.
Six counties will have senate districts split three or more times — Oklahoma, Tulsa, Canadian, Cleveland, Wagner and Cherokee counties, he said.
The city of Norman will become its own Senate district based on recommendations from the public, Paxton said.
The proposed maps will be presented to their respective committees next week, and if advanced, face a full Floor vote. Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt must ultimately approve them.
Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, said she planned to take a closer look at the maps, but couldn’t comment until she saw all the proposed districts.
Paxton said the Legislature would not consider congressional districts until it receives actual U.S. Census data in hand.
At that point, they’re planning to host five more town halls — one in each congressional district — and will likely have to hold a special session in October to finalize the maps and make any final changes to the state legislative maps.
Neither plan pairs any incumbents who are eligible for re-election, Martinez said.
“At the end of the day, the decision on whether incumbents will continue to serve will be made by the voters, not the drawing of district lines,” he said.
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at email@example.com.