Speaker-Designate names House redistricting steering committee

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 12-Aug-2010

House Speaker-Designate Kris Steele named a bipartisan Redistricting Steering Committee today that will help the House prepare for the redrawing of state and federal legislative lines following the 2010 census.

The eight members — who represent each area of the state — named to the committee include:

Rep. Dale DeWitt, R-Braman

Rep. John Trebilcock, R-Broken Arrow

Rep. Danny Morgan, D-Prague

Rep. Paul Roan, D-Tishomingo

Rep. Jabar Shumate, D-Tulsa

Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview

Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City

Rep. Lisa Billy, R-Purcell

“We want to ensure that this process is bipartisan and fair as we construct appropriate districts to reflect the changing population of our state,” said Steele, R-Shawnee. “I have complete faith that these members will put in the hard work necessary to ensure Oklahomans remain well-represented at the state Legislature and in Congress.”

The committee’s first task will be to create guidelines for redistricting, which will serve as the framework as the lines are redrawn. The committee will examine the law governing redistricting and the process required, develop a timeline for the various tasks to be completed, establish guidelines, and will help communicate the plan of action with the public and other legislative colleagues.

Reps. DeWitt and Trebilcock will serve as the co-chairmen of the redistricting committee, and Reps. Morgan and Roan will serve as co-vice-chairmen.

“Redistricting is one of the most important issues we will deal with this next year,” said Steele. “The expertise the members of this committee bring to this process will be invaluable as we move forward. They represent a good cross-section of the state and are politically and geographically diverse. I look forward to going to work as soon as possible as we seek to create fair and balanced districts that meet the criteria required by law.”

In April, current Senate President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee named Co-Chairmen and Co-Vice Chairmen of the 2010 Redistricting Committee for the Senate.

Senators Clark Jolley and Mike Schulz, Republicans from Edmond and Altus, respectively, are Co-Chairmen of the committee, joined by Co-Vice Chairmen Senators Andrew Rice and Sean Burrage, Democrats from Oklahoma City and Claremore, respectively.

At that time, Coffee said, “Redistricting is a constitutionally mandated function of the Legislature in conjunction with the Census which is conducted every ten years. It’s vital that all Oklahomans are fairly and equally represented as we draw legislative and Congressional district boundaries, and I’m confident the leadership we have on this committee will see that vital duty is carried out in a very professional and bipartisan manner.

“I thank Senators Jolley, Schulz, Rice and Burrage for accepting this challenge,” he concluded.

It is expected that the U.S. Census Bureau data that will be used to redraw the lines will not be available until mid-March 2011. Work on redrawing the House and Senate district lines must be completed by the end of the 2011 legislative session. New lines for Congressional and county offices should be completed before the 2012 elections.

Early population estimates from the Bureau of the Census indicate the state of Oklahoma will hold its own in the 2011 reapportionment of the U.S. House of Representatives. A Washington Post news analysis of the data hinted dramatic gains in Republican strength are possible early in the next decade. Recent polls indicate several Republican advantages in the upcoming elections of legislatures, including Oklahoma’s, where congressional and legislative lines are to be drawn.

Oklahoma has grown modestly in population, from an April 1, 2000 “base” of 3,450,638 to an estimated population of 3,687,050 as of July 1, 2009. This will put the state in the middle of the 50 states, neither gaining nor losing strength in Congress. 
Eight states stand to gain enough population to merit additional seats in the U.S. House: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Washington.

Ten states will apparently lose seats in Congress after the Census is filed: Ohio, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts, new York, Iowa and New Jersey.

Under the U.S. Constitution, a Census of the population is taken every 10 years. Representation in the U.S. House of Representatives is then apportioned based on population. Oklahoma dropped from six to five members in the House after the 2000 Census. Besides the Congress, Census results drive reapportionment processes in state legislatures, municipal bodies such as city councils, school districts and other local or municipal legislative bodies.

NOTE: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.