America’s founding fathers were suspicious of politicians and didn’t want the kind of predatory government by elite insiders they saw in England. Alas, we got it anyway. Our current system provides so many perks to incumbents, reinforced by blatant gerrymandering, that nearly every race in the state Legislature might as well be fixed on both sides of the aisle.
Ending gerrymandering isn’t a new idea. In fact, Oklahoma Republicans ran a ballot measure in the 1980s to undo the bizarre districts drawn by Democrats that divided Oklahoma City into three separate congressional districts. Regardless of which party is in power, it’s clear that politicians have always been and continue to be more interested in protecting their power than doing what is in the best interest of the people of Oklahoma.
President Ronald Reagan repeatedly warned us about the dangers of gerrymandering during his time in office, calling it “a national scandal,” “a conflict of interest,” and “un-democratic and un-American.” Likewise, in 2017 former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating and Ohio Gov. John Kaisch, along with Sens. Bob Dole, John McCain and others jointly authored a letter to the U.S. Supreme Court condemning partisan gerrymandering and encouraging the court to end the practice.
When the Court decided not to rule on the issue and instead leave it up to voters to decide, I, along with hundreds of other Oklahomans who want to end gerrymandering in our state, formed People Not Politicians for the purpose of doing just that. Our coalition includes people from all political backgrounds and all parts of the state. What unites us is the recognition that our political system is broken, and we understand that it’s up to the voters to fix it.
I’m proud to say that since we filed our ballot initiative, we’ve raised thousands of dollars from Oklahomans across the state — a clear sign that Oklahomans are tired of the status quo. Ending gerrymandering isn’t a partisan issue — it’s a power issue. And the power to draw district lines should belong to the people, not the politicians.
For decades, politicians from both parties have put more focus on getting re-elected and staying in office than they have in taking care of Oklahoma’s real problems. That’s why we’re still dealing with the same issues every year — education funding, poor quality of life, overcrowded prisons, crumbling roads and more. When politicians know they’ll get re-elected no matter what, they spend more time catering to lobbyists and special interests than doing what’s right for Oklahoma.
Whether it's with district lines or misinformation and partisan rhetoric, politicians will do whatever it takes to hold on to the power they have. They're trying to pit neighbor against neighbor so we'll fight one another instead of fighting against their ability to rig their own elections.
Our Founding Fathers knew that power often corrupts, which is why they placed the ultimate power with its citizens to ensure our country’s government remains truly of the people, by the people. Opposition to giving the people of Oklahoma the opportunity to form a citizen-led independent redistricting commission is nothing more than a power grab by a disengaged and out-of-touch Legislature, members of which are relying on tired political scare tactics to bully Oklahoma voters. We can't let them win.
Andy Moore is executive director of People Not Politicians.