CapitolBeatOK Staff Report
The Senate Committee on Redistricting has completed its task of redrawing Senate district boundaries based on the 2010 U.S. Census. Sen. Clark Jolley, an Edmond Republican, and Sen. Bryce Marlatt, a Woodward Republican, are co-chairs of the committee.
While the measure is widely expected to pass, it will draw some opposition votes, according to the Senate minority leader.
Jolley said it was a painstaking and difficult process, but in the end, the final boundaries were the result of a bipartisan effort and reflect a strong commitment to civil rights. The committee approved the proposal Wednesday afternoon (May 11).
“We had to make sure the each district has approximately the same number of people and that we preserved districts where a majority of citizens are minorities. Oklahoma’s population grew by some 300,000 people over the past ten years, but there’s also been a major shift from rural areas to metropolitan suburbs,” Jolley said.
“In addition, we’ve had significant demographic changes with the growth of our Hispanic population. After much work and negotiations, we’ve developed a comprehensive and fair approach which meets our constitutional and statutory mandates.”
The current district boundaries were designed so that each would have approximately 72,000 people. Oklahoma’s population increased by 8.7 percent from 2000 to 2010, which meant each Senate district had to be redrawn to expand those districts to approximately 78,000 people.
“We’ve had changes in both size and concentration of populations that had to be taken into account. We didn’t want to divide smaller communities, and we also wanted to avoid dividing counties into different districts whenever possible. It was difficult, but we succeeded,” Marlatt said. “Ultimately, the districts we drew came within one percent of a completely even population division, even though the law allows up to a five percent variance. The final product is a testament to the hard work and professionalism of our staff and our members.”
Sen. Sean Burrage, a Democrat from Claremore, served as co-vice chair of the redistricting committee. He said the final proposal is the product of common sense and bipartisanship.
“I am very pleased that many of the district lines have changed as a result of the work we have done with Senator Jolley and Senator Marlatt,” Burrage said. “It has been a tough and intense process and I commend people on both sides of the aisle for improving the bill.”
“I want to express my thanks to Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman for his great leadership throughout this process,” Jolley said. “I also want to acknowledge the hard work of my co-chair, Senator Marlatt, and vice co-chairs, Senator Andrew Rice and Senator Sean Burrage, as well as our outstanding staff -- their commitment, patience and experience have been invaluable.”
In response to question from CapitolBeatOK, Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice, an Oklahoma City Democrat from District 46 in the MidCity area, commented, "In the end they were fair to Senate District 46 and many other Democratic districts, but I will be voting NAY on the overall bill to show solidarity with members of my caucus who are unhappy with the process, and who will vote against the bill. However, there will be enough bi-partisan votes for the bill to pass."
Note: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.