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Tulsa World: Oklahoma Legislature will get the redistricting job done, despite census bureau problems

Sen. Dave Rader

Mar 9, 2021 Updated 12 hrs ago

Often, life can throw unexpected things your way. Sometimes success comes down to how you adapt and make adjustments to the unexpected.

The Oklahoma Constitution requires redistricting to be concluded by the end of the state legislative session following the receipt of census data from the federal government.

That’s typically not a problem for the once-a-decade process. However, this year, the U.S. Census Bureau has announced census data used by each state to redraw legislative and congressional districts will be delayed well into the second half of 2021.

To be sure, that delay in the release of data to the states presents some challenges. When we heard that news in Oklahoma, however, we knew we would be able to adapt and make adjustments to ensure we get our work done as constitutionally required. And that’s what we have done.

Earlier this month, the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting, and our counterpart committee in the House, met and adopted rules, guidelines and the parameters for public map submissions. I encourage you to visit the Senate’s website at to read these documents and learn more about exactly how we are carrying out redistricting in the Senate.

Among the adjustments we are making due to the delay in census data from the federal government is the Legislature will use population estimates from the 2015 through 2019 years of the American Community Survey for the redistricting of legislative boundaries. For the drawing of congressional districts, the Legislature will use the 2020 Census data once it is delivered to the states.

The estimates are thought to be very accurate. But if adjustments are necessary to conform to the constitutional standard of one person one vote following the release of the 2020 Census redistricting data, the Legislature will reconvene in a special session to adjust its legislative district lines.

No adjustments are necessary when it comes to the public’s front and center role in redistricting at the Capitol. Now is the time for you to share with your senator or representative your questions and comments about redistricting.

We’ve held numerous town hall meetings across the state. You can log-on to the Senate or House websites to view the archived video of those meetings and hear what is on the mind of our fellow Oklahomans when it comes to redistricting.

Beyond communicating your concerns, redistricting is an interactive process for citizens. We are excited to partner with a third-party vendor that will allow you to draw a map for either the 48-seat Senate or the 101-seat House. You must be an Oklahoma resident to submit a map and there is a limit of one map submission per person. The submissions are due to the Oklahoma Senate by 5 p.m. April 4. There are more detailed instructions about the process and links to the third-party vendor to draw your maps on the Senate and House redistricting websites.

The Census Bureau’s decision to delay release of the data certainly was unexpected. But I’m confident our adjustments will ensure the Legislature is able to get our work done on time and keep our commitment to keep the process open and transparent.

Dave Rader, represents much of Tulsa in the Oklahoma Senate. He is co-vice chairman of the Senate Redistricting Committee.