The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

December 16, 2010

Public gets opportunity to talk with legislators about redistricting

FAIRVIEW — Making sure new legislative districts are as equal in population as possible is the main concern of state lawmakers tasked with redistricting, a member of a House panel said Thursday.

About a dozen people attended an Oklahoma House public input meeting on the 2011 redistricting process at Fairview Conference Center.

Rep. Dale DeWitt, R-Braman, is co-chairman of the House Redistricting Steering Committee. He said the equal population provision is a key.

“We do want to have the population as close to or as even (for every district) as we possibly can,” DeWitt said.

Thursday’s meeting was the third in a series of meetings set up by the committee, whose goal is to gather concerns and questions from the public before the process of redrawing legislative and congressional lines begins.

Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, one of the members of the steering committee, said there are eight members on the committee. Others are: Rep. John Trebilcock, R-Broken Bow; Rep. Danny Morgan, D-Prague; Rep. Paul Roan, D-Tishomingo; Rep. Lisa Billy, R-Purcell; Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City; and Rep. Jabar Shumate, D-Tulsa.

Hickman said the committee has been at work since August.

“We are setting in motion the criteria by which the line will be drawn,” he said.

Arnella Karges, redistricting director of the Oklahoma House Representatives, explained at the meeting the different principles the Legislature must consider when redrawing district lines.

Those principles include: Equal population, compactness, contiguity, preserving political subdivisions, combining communities of interest, preserving cores of prior districts, and ensuring compliance with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which says districts cannot be drawn to intentionally exclude minority candidates from election.

Once U.S. Census data begins to come in, starting in December and continuing into early next year, the Legislature can begin the redistricting process, Karges said.

“We are waiting at the state level to receive census counts from the U.S. Census Bureau,” she said.

In addition to redrawing district lines, county commissioner lines also will be redrawn, DeWitt said.

“County commissioner lines will be redrawn once we complete the House district drawing of lines, then county commissioners will meet to draw their lines, and we will work with them to come up with the final drawing of the county commission lines,” he said.

The steering committee will continue to hold public meeting in other locations of the state through the remainder of December and into January.

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