Oklahoma House of Representatives approve new Congressional district boundaries

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — The Oklahoma House of Representatives approved along a party-line vote new Congressional district boundaries that will shift 13 percent of Oklahoma residents into a new Congressional district for the 2022 election and for the next ten years.

Wednesday morning, the map that removes Bartlesville from Congressional District One (CD-1), compacts CD-1 into mostly just the Tulsa metro, and splits parts of southern Oklahoma City into three Congressional Districts passed by a vote of 75-19. All yes votes were Republicans. All no votes were Democrats. Seven members (a mix of both parties) were absent.

“This was a mathematical problem more than anything,” OK House Redistricting Committee Chairman Ryan Martinez (R-Edmond) said. “We needed to equal out all of the districts. If you moved a line in one place, you had to move it somewhere else so the population could be the same.”

Martinez testified before the House on Wednesday and addressed questions from both sides. Democrats were upset with how the state’s only competitive Congressional district was drawn while some Republicans were concerned about some cities getting a new Congressman after working with a different one in a different Congressional district after at least if not more than ten years.

“They will get a new Congressman, and that Congressman will be more than happy to work with them on their issues and concerns about what’s happening in Washington and their community’s needs,” Martinez said about the 13 percent of voters who will find themselves in a new district after the 2022 election.

Democrats accused Republicans of breaking up their voters in central Oklahoma and spreading them out over three different districts. Currently Oklahoma City voters south of the Oklahoma River in Oklahoma County are part of Congressional District 5. Now many of them will be split up and represented in Districts 3 and 4 starting in 2022.

Democrats accused Republicans of weakening the state’s only competitive Congressional district which for one term elected Democrat Rep. Kendra Horn but swung back into Republican hands in 2020.

“Congressional District 5 was competitive. Now it’s not,” said OK House Minority Leader Emily Virgin (D-Norman).

State Representative Forrest Bennett said Republicans had chosen a map that intentionally breaks up of a growing number of Latino voters who’ve swayed Democratic in recent elections and helped Horn to victory in 2018. He said portions of Oklahoma City are now going to have to live with Congressman known for being an advocate on rural agricultural policies in Congress who doesn’t even live in Oklahoma City limits.

“Right now, I can go to Scissortail Park, get a snow cone, and likely run in to Congresswoman Bice who is from Oklahoma City and working on our issues and knows about them,” Bennett said. “Under this map, someone who lives north of the river could run into Bice and talk about their problems, and anyone living south of the river going to the same park might run into Frank Lucas might. Frank is a nice guy, but I highly doubt he’s just hanging out in south Oklahoma City because he’s from another community and represents such a large area already.”

Bennett’s colleague on the south side State Rep. Jose Cruz said all of the social and political progress Latino’s had made in their community would be wiped out by splitting southern Oklahoma City into three districts instead of leaving them all in CD-5.

“We’ve been redlined for years,” Cruz said. “And you can see its impact on our community.”

“This is a gerrymander,” State Rep. Regina Goodwin (D-Tulsa) said. “They are clearly rigging the system to decide who is going to win.”

Martinez said no political data at all was used in the drawing of districts, but Democrats cried foul when Martinez said he met with CD-5 Rep. Stephanie Bice (R) about the redistricting process but didn’t meet with other members of the Oklahoma Congressional delegation.

“One of the biggest issues in this building isn’t Republicans versus Democrats. It’s rural versus urban,” State Rep. Collin Walke (D-Oklahoma City) said. “If you’re concerned with rural versus urban, and if you recognize the big divide is rural versus urban, why would you draw a map that has the south side of Oklahoma City with Boise City? It makes no sense. The only logical conclusion is a Democrat is going to hold one out of five Congressional seats.”

Martinez said the map Democrats preferred and brought to the table was drawn by a partisan dark money group that drew CD-5 to the advantage of Democrats, and it was not taken seriously by the committee.

Other Republicans have argued that Democrats are gerrymandering in states they control and that if one was taking place it would equal out what is being done in those other states.

Martinez said Oklahoma City is simply too big to be in its own Congressional district both in land area and population size, and it was inevitable that the city would need to see parts of it reallocated with the state’s current allotment of just five seats in the U.S. House.

State Rep. Sean Roberts (R-Hominy) asked about Bartlesville being moved from under Rep. Kevin Hern’s oversight to Rep. Markwayne Mullin in order to balance out the population shifts within CD-1 and CD-2, and Martinez said there were multiple public comments taken about the move. Moving Bartlesville and all of Washington County from CD-1 to CD-2 was the most popular suggestion from residents who live up there.

FOX23 reached out to Hern’s office for comment on losing Bartlesville and Washington County and was told Hern and Mullin have already started early discussions about issues effecting that area, case work shifts, and community issues, but we were reminded that these changes are more than a year away and discussions will be happening for a long time to ensure a smooth transition.

Aside from controversy over the state’s Congressional districts, Martinez noted that there was no opposition from anyone as to how the state house’s maps were drawn for the next ten year. A shift that moves one state house seat from the Tulsa metro the Oklahoma City metro because of OKC’s growing population.

“We used the same process to draw those maps as we did the Congressional districts, and I didn’t hear any allegations about gerrymandering or any concerns about those maps. Everyone seems fine and happy with those,” Martinez said about how town halls were held in areas to address local and Congressional redistricting at the same time.

The maps now move to the State Senate for debate and approval on Thursday.