The Legislature has two big jobs this year: balance the state’s budget and redraw the boundary lines for Congress and the state Senate and House.
So far, it’s been fairly quiet on the redistricting front, at least publicly. But behind the scenes, you can be sure there’s a lot going on.
The “easy” part–Congressional redistricting–is on its way to completion. Unlike a decade ago when the state lost a seat, the congressional plan was easier this year because Oklahoma stayed at five seats. The House approved a congressional redistricting bill earlier this week. Here’s what the proposed map looks like, according to House Bill 1527: (click for larger version)
A closer look at the map shows there are not a lot of differences between the current congressional district lines and the proposed changes. Essentially, the state’s lone Democrat, Rep. Dan Boren in the 2nd Congressional District, now gets Marshall County on the Texas border and
gives up gains some suburban Tulsa territory in Rogers County. There also are some changes to Rep. Tom Cole’s 4th District and Rep. James Lankford’s 5th District, mostly around Tinker Air Force Base. Rep. Frank Lucas picks up more population in fast-growing (and solidly Republican) Canadian County, courtesy of Cole. Around Tulsa, the 1st District’s Rep. John Sullivan picks up a little territory to the west in Creek County.
If you want to try making your own map, check out the free site, Daves Redistricting. Without any nods to current allegiances, politics or the Voting Rights Act, I made my own quick-and-dirty version of congressional redistricting. I had one requirement for my map: each district had to stay within the county lines.
My take: It’s a lot harder than it looks.
Even with all the tools available on Daves Redistricting site, I managed to leave out about 900 people, who have effectively been disenfranchised by my map. (A court would surely throw out my plan!) Also, I have Lankford’s 5th District (yellow below) with about 10,000 more residents than it should have. Ideally, each congressional district should have 750,270 people, according to the latest Census data. Lucas’ 3rd District is in purple, Cole’s 4th District is in red, Boren’s 2nd District is green and Sullivan’s 1st District is in blue.
Here’s my map: (click for larger version)
Under my map, all of Oklahoma and Logan counties are now in the 5th District. Boren’s 2nd District moves westward on its southern section, picking up Ardmore. Cole gets all of Canadian County and Pottawatomie County. Lankford gets the so-called “Tinker Notch” in Oklahoma County. To replace the loss of Canadian County, Lucas takes in population north of Tulsa and in northeastern Oklahoma.
For some more Oklahoma congressional redistricting options, check out this message board for political map junkies.
Lawmakers now have about five weeks left in the session to complete the harder redistricting task for the state House and Senate. Capitol reporter Michael McNutt has an update on that here.
The main things to watch for in legislative redistricting are how they will redistrict seats with declining rural populations and which seats are held by term-limited lawmakers. Oklahoma Watchdog has more on that here.
You can also try your hand at redrawing legislative districts at Daves Redistricting. I haven’t tried that option, yet, but it doesn’t seem like an easy task. Each new House district should have about 37,142 residents. Under House rules, you’re allowed to deviate from those ideal numbers no more than plus or minus 3 percent, or about 1,100 people. Ideally, each new Senate district should have 78,153 residents.
For more on redistricting in general, check out the following sites:
- Oklahoma House of Representatives Redistricting
- National Conference of State Legislatures Redistricting
- U.S. Census: Redistricting Data
- Redistricting the Nation
- Election Data Services
- Brennan Center for Justice: A Citizen’s Guide to Redistricting
- The Redistricting Game
Written by Paul Monies