OKLAHOMA CITY – With the Nov. 15 special redistricting session looming for the Oklahoma Legislature, the Republicans have sent up their trial balloon for U.S. House redistricting, and the badly outnumbered Democrats aren’t cheering.
Looking at the map, the Democrats see Oklahoma’s most competitive Dist. 5 being carved in such a way as to split its Democratic voting bloc between other districts.
“You have folks on the south side and in the core of Oklahoma City now sharing a congressional representative with folks in the Oklahoma Panhandle,” said Rep. Emily Virgin, House party leader from Norman. “That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever unless your goal is to make sure a Democrat doesn’t get elected from Oklahoma.”
The largely Hispanic – and Democratic leaning – southwest of Oklahoma City is sawed off the new Dist. 5 and glued to the heavily Republican Dist. 3 placing those voters in the same district with Boise City. Those voters are replaced in Dist. 5 with portions of GOP-heavy Lincoln and Logan counties.
In the 2020 presidential election, Oklahoma County nearly went against GOP incumbent Donald Trump, with the president only winning the county 49% to 48%. The city also narrowly supported incumbent Democrat Kendra Horn in the U.S. House of Representatives at 50% to 49%.
Horn, elected in 2018, lost her re-election bid to former State Sen. Stephanie Bice in 2020.
Republicans say the redistricting is consistent with maps drawn in the past to address representational concerns.
“Oklahoma City will continue to have one majority congressional district with (Dist. 5) and representation in two others, as it has for decades,” said Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, chairman of the House Redistricting Committee. “This is appropriate given the Oklahoma City metro area’s status as Oklahoma’s fastest-growing area, the public input received from many metro area communities, and statewide military base needs.”
Martinez also said the Redistricting Committee wanted to keep Tinker Air Force Base, Altus AFB and Fort Sill in U.S. Rep. Tom Cole’s 4th Congressional District.
Tulsa’s Dist. 1 will add part of Creek County, but shed eastern Wagoner County and all of Washington County, which includes Bartlesville. Those portions would be moved into Dist. 2 with representation by Republican Markwayne Mullin.
Oklahoma’s entire federal delegation of two senators and five House reps is Republican.
The U.S. House map presented by Republicans is only a proposal, but is likely to enjoy widespread support in a statehouse overwhelmingly dominated by the GOP. The Legislature will convene for a special session to complete redistricting plans with final U.S. Census data for 2020.
Redistricting maps have already been proposed and approved for the Oklahoma Senate and House, but they were also preliminary pending Census data.
Under the preliminary House map, the boundaries in Cherokee County would change little. Most voters would be in Dist. 4, represented by Republican Bob Culver, while those in the west would be in Dist. 14, represented by Republican Chris Sneed, and those in the northern part of the county would be part of Dist. 86, represented by Republican David Hardin.
In the current Senate map, parts of Cherokee County are in Dists. 3, 9 and 18 – represented by Republican Sens. Blake Stephens, Dewayne Pemberton and Kim David, respectively.
Under the new map, those included in Dist. 9 would mostly be unaffected. The new Dist. 3 would include northern and western Cherokee County, as most of Mayes and Wagoner counties. The old Dist. 18 moves west into a densely populated part of Canadian County. David terms out on Jan. 9, 2023, as the new Legislature takes office with the new district borders.
The new Dist. 4 would keep all of Sequoyah County, but drop northern LeFlore County. Included would be all of Adair County, southern Delaware County and southeast Cherokee County. The proposed redistricting would do away with the old Dist. 3 boundaries.
Democrat lawmakers have aired few complaints in Oklahoma media about the proposed districts, though they would have little ability to fight against the Republicans. The GOP holds supermajorities of 75%-plus in both chambers, and every statewide office.