The debate over redrawing the 5th Congressional District in Oklahoma that cuts the southside of Oklahoma City’s growing Hispanic population in half continues, even as the Republican-led legislature has passed its redistricting plan and Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed it into law.

Democrats contend the new maps were drawn to separate thousands from the heavily Hispanic southside of OKC from the politically competitive 5th District to the solid Republican 3rd Congressional District, currently represented by longtime state Rep. Frank Lucas.

According to an Oklahoma Watch story in Sunday’s Enid News & Eagle, there are several layers to the debate. Some partisans see the move as a blatant act of “gerrymandering,” in which a ruling political party manipulates the boundaries of a district to favor that party.

Many claim that the community in the redrawn area has generally voted as a Democratic block and that by redistricting them into a heavily-fortified Republican district, their voices will not be heard. Others have expressed concern about how cutting their community into three districts instead of two — Republican Rep. Tom Cole has represented portions of south Oklahoma City since 2002 — would affect Hispanic voter participation.

There’s an old saying that when it comes to politicians and politics, not only should you be above reproach, but you should also give the appearance of being above reproach. Splitting a significant, growing community from a very urban area that is becoming a mixture of Republican and Democratic politics into a solidly Republican rural district doesn’t give that appearance of being above reproach.

However, even as the southside of metro Oklahoma City is changing, so is the rest of the state. The Hispanic population in Oklahoma saw a 42.1% increase in the past 10 years according to the U.S. Census, increasing the percentage of Hispanics in the state from 8.9% of the state’s total population in 2010 to 11.1% now.

State Sen. Michael Brooks, D-Oklahoma City, said, “Projecting out, if (population trends) continue the way they are, gerrymandering may be more difficult just because the (Hispanic) population may be spread out over the entire state.”

Still, lawmakers who represent Hispanic communities in both rural and urban areas note that the population’s needs — just as the needs of all races and ethnicities in the state — are different depending on where they live.

OKC’s growing southside Hispanic community is just now starting to explore their political power. Rep. Forrest Bennett, a Democrat, said many are entrepreneurial and starting to become more involved in OKC politics by being appointed to municipal cities and boards.

“People are finally starting to feel like they can share their concerns with their elected officials, knowing that they will be taken seriously,” he said. “Progress has been made to bring our city together. These congressional maps, however, tear us apart.”

He certainly has a point.

The News & Eagle Editorial Board meets weekly to form the newspaper's stances on mostly local and state and occasionally national issues.

Have a question about this opinion piece? Do you see something we missed? Do you have an editorial idea for the News & Eagle? Send an email to callen@enidnews.com

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