Oklahoma House holds town hall on redistricting

Drew Butler
The Daily Ardmoreite
Rep. Ronny Johns (R-Ada), Vice-Chair of the South Central Subcommittee on redistricting opens the redistricting town hall at Southern Tech on Tuesday evening.

On Tuesday evening the Oklahoma House of Representatives held a town hall in Ardmore to gather public input and provide information about the redistricting process for state and congressional representatives that will take place later this year. The redistricting process takes place following every official United States Census in order to ensure that all legislative districts represent an approximately equal amount of citizens.

Though the official results of the 2020 Census will not be released until April, estimates from July 2019 indicate the population of Oklahoma has grown by approximately 200,000 since the census in 2010. Therefore it is estimated that each of the state house districts will need to include an additional 2,000 people, each state senate district will need an additional 4,000, and each congressional district will need an additional 41,000.  Based on these numbers, it looks like Oklahoma will retain all five of its congressional districts and will not gain or lose any representation in Washington. Because the population growth has not been uniform all across the state, all of these districts will need to be redrawn.

Former Oklahoma Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon gave an overview of all the things that go into the redistricting process, and he related his own experience with redistricting in 2011.

“I was involved 10 years ago when we did it, and it was a very successful process,” Shannon said. “It was successful because we were able to avoid any legal challenges and it was passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support. I think the bill passed 93 to three.”

Shannon reviewed the guidelines set in place for redistricting. One of the most important guidelines regards fairness to minority ethnic and political groups.

“This has to do with court cases that pay a lot of scrutiny to how majority minority districts are handled in the state,” Shannon said. “There are several requirements based on the 1964 Voting Rights Act that require redistricting considerations to handle very carefully in majority minority districts. We have four of those in Oklahoma.”

Other guidelines include: a population standard deviation of no more that 6% for the state’s 101 house districts and no more than 1% for congressional districts, preservation of political subdivisions, the requirement that districts must be contiguous, and the preservation of the core of existing districts.

Shannon said the state has appointed every legislator to one of eight regional subcommittees on redistricting, and to encourage public participation and transparency similar town halls have been held in each of these regions. Recordings of these meetings along with additional information about the process can be accessed online at www.okhouse.gov.

After the official census results are released in April, the legislature will have until the last Friday in May to get all of the districts redrawn, and the new districts will be put into effect during the 2022 election cycle.

Rep. Tammy Townley (R-Ardmore) closed the town hall.

“I can assure that this will be a very fair process,” she said. “If you have any questions I promise you that we will be very accessible.”