(Oklahoma City) The Oklahoma State Senate has approved a congressional redistricting plan that puts the people ahead of incumbent politicians, according to the author of the legislation, Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor.
SB 1683 reduces the number of congressional districts from six to five to reflect population shifts documented in the 2000 census. The House is expected to take up the measure later this week.
Were trying to protect the interests of three-million plus citizens of Oklahoma, not the five incumbent politicians who are revving up their re-election campaigns. This legislation preserves historic communities of interest, retains the flavor and compact nature of the existing districts, and complies with all of the one-man, one-vote requirements. Those are the issues we should be addressing, not the political future of individual congressmen who may or may not be around a few years from now, said Sen. Taylor.
In addition to retaining communities of interest in the current congressional districts, the legislation groups cities and towns with similar interests. For example, the 1st district would become the energy district, retaining most of the city of Tulsa and adding other communities with energy interests, such as Bartlesville and Ponca City. The new 4th district would be the military district, picking up Tinker Air Force Base in Midwest City and stretching into southwestern Oklahoma to include Altus Air Force Base and Fort Sill in Lawton. The new 5th district would be the agriculture district, including most of northwestern Oklahoma and picking up Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.
In order to group communities of interest together and retain the historic structure of the current districts the plan places two incumbent officeholders in the same district Frank Lucas and Ernest Istook.
Its not the incumbent politician protection plan that Gov. Keating wanted, but it does protect the interests of the citizens of Oklahoma the people who should come first in this process. I dont think theres any question that this redistricting plan is far superior to the one drafted by the governor, said Sen. Taylor.
The redistricting plan that the Keating administration plan has submitted to the state courts is much different than the proposal approved by the Senate. According to the governor, the sole goal of his redistricting proposal is the protection of the five incumbent congressmen who are running for re-election.
To accomplish that, Governor Keating had to drastically redraw the current district lines, creating two sprawling districts that stretch the entire width of Oklahoma from the Kansas to the Texas border. Those two districts account for approximately 80 percent of Oklahomas land mass.
I think its very difficult to make the argument that you have constructed the best, most compact districts possible when two out of five of them stretch from the Kansas to Texas borders. I understand Governor Keatings desire to protect incumbents, but in this case, I dont think that approach best serves the interests of the people of Oklahoma, said Sen. Taylor.
Gov. Keating has vowed to veto any plan that does not protect incumbents, but Sen. Taylor is urging the governor to reconsider his threat, saying a veto is not in the best interest of the citizens of Oklahoma.
The people want their elected officials to do their duty and draw a redistricting map that protects their interests, said Sen. Taylor.
Three redistricting lawsuits are currently pending in state and federal court. SB 1683 is the same redistricting proposal that Sen. Taylor recently filed as evidence in a lawsuit that is being litigated in Oklahoma County District Court.