OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Kevin Stitt on Friday called for a special session to start Nov. 15 to finish the state’s redistricting process.
In his executive order, Stitt said that lawmakers will only be able to use the special session to redistrict Oklahoma’s congressional districts; to update and redistrict as necessary the state’s legislative districts; and to amend candidacy and redistricting deadlines.
In April, state House and Senate leaders unveiled the state’s new legislative maps, but said they wouldn’t attempt to redraw the state’s congressional maps until fall — after the U.S. Census Bureau released the long-delayed final population counts required every decade.
The state constitution required the Legislature to adopt new legislative districts by the end of session, so lawmakers 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 of 3.96 million.
However, lawmakers announced last month that they would have to make adjustments to their redistricted House legislative maps because while the statewide population count was generally within those estimates, some individual districts saw population changes beyond what was expected.
In the interim, state lawmakers have been holding a series of in-person and virtual town halls in what they said is an effort to help maintain a commitment to an open and transparent congressional redistricting process that includes input from the public.
They’re also continuing to accept redistricting map proposals from the public until Oct. 10 for the five congressional districts. The state House and Senate joint redistricting committee has said it then plans to hold a meeting the week of Oct. 18 so the public can present those proposed maps.
“We are counting on the public to take ownership of congressional redistricting just as they did for legislative redistricting,” said state Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, in a statement ahead of Stitt’s call for a special session. “Oklahoma will maintain five congressional seats that will require adjustments to account for population growth and other factors prescribed in law. Public input will once again be vital to getting these districts drawn properly for the next decade.”
Over the past decade, nearly two-thirds of Oklahoma counties saw their populations decrease, losing a combined 69,000, an analysis of Oklahoma’s U.S. Census Bureau data shows. But the remaining counties — predominantly urban and suburban — saw their populations grow by about 277,000 people.
And while the state saw a net gain of about 208,000 people in the past decade, nearly half of all Oklahoma residents now report living in just four counties — Canadian, Cleveland, Oklahoma and Tulsa.
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.