Steele promises sensible redistricting process

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 15-Dec-2010

House Speaker-elect Kris Steele on Wednesday (December 15) welcomed public input on redistricting issues and vowed to pursue a sensible process that protects the rights of Oklahomans.

“Unfortunately, the process of redistricting often presents the temptation to place personal political gain over civic duty and pits Democrats against Republicans, rural interests against urban, and even Democrat against Democrat and Republican against Republican,” said Steele, a Shawnee Republican. “That approach does not serve the best interests of Oklahoma citizens. We must protect against a process that is divisive and self-serving, and I am committed to promoting a sound and effective plan to secure the most accurate representation within our state.”

By law, the Legislature must redraw its district and congressional boundaries to reflect changes in population every 10 years immediately following the decennial Census. According to preliminary Census figures, Oklahoma’s population increased by 6.9 percent in the past decade.

Oklahoma lost one congressional seat in the last reapportionment process, but projected estimates indicate Oklahoma will retain its five congressional seats for the 2012 election cycle and the next decade.

The Legislature must complete its work for legislative redistricting in 2011, pursuant to the constitutional deadline. There is not a deadline for the Legislature to redraw the congressional district boundaries, but the goal is to complete the work prior to candidate filing for congressional offices in 2012.

To begin the process, Steele has appointed an eight-member Redistricting Steering Committee to study the laws and procedures governing the redistricting process, develop a timeline for the completion of necessary objectives, establish principled guidelines for redrawing district lines, and help communicate the plan of action to the public.

The group is currently hosting public meetings across Oklahoma, including the Oklahoma City hearing where Steele made his comments Wednesday evening. Another meeting was previously conducted in Ada, and others have been scheduled in Fairview, Elk City and Chickasha, with more to come.

“Our goal should be for new districts to be drawn based on common-sense standards,” Steele said. “Districts should be contiguous, as geographically compact as possible, and include communities with similar economic, social, and cultural interests. Redistricting can have a significant impact on all Oklahomans for a decade, so I am committed to a process worthy of the people of Oklahoma.”