Gerrymandering Petition Heard by OK Supreme Court


People Not Politicians is a nonprofit group seeking to amend the Oklahoma constitution by establishing an independent commission to oversee redistricting following the 2020 census and every ten years thereafter. As a high school government teacher, I think this is an awesome opportunity for Oklahoma to become a much more democratic (lowercase d) state.

In its initiative petition, PNP seeks to take the power to draw the district lines away from state lawmakers and give it to an independent, nonpartisan commission. PNP's argument is that districts are easily gerrymandered when lawmakers draw them. 



On Tuesday, January 21, 2020, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma heard oral arguments challenging the initiative petition filed by People Not Politicians

During opening arguments, opponents brought up three challenges to the petition:
  1. A violation of Oklahoma's constitutional "single-subject rule" (aka: logrolling) 
  2. A hypothetical 1st Amendment injury to potentially-disqualified commission members
  3. The insufficiency of the gist (summary) in its summary of the petition
The attorneys arguing against PNP's petition seemed to be throwing the kitchen sink at the petition and often times did not have compelling answers to questions from the panel of judges.

If the court sides with People Not Politicians, they will have 90 days to collect 177,958 signatures in order for State Question 804 to be placed on the ballot.

How Would The Commission Work?

Under the terms of SQ804, the redistricting commission responsible for drawing Oklahoma's new district maps would consist of three members of the largest political party, three members of the second largest political party, and three members of "other political parties" (essentially 3 Republicans, 3 Democrats, and 3 Independents).

The 9 members of the independent redistricting commission would essentially be chosen by the following methodology:
  1. The Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice would appoint a director and would chose three retired judges to sit on a judges panel.
  2. Anyone interested in serving on the commission (the group that would draw the map) would submit an application.
  3. The judges panel would look through all received commissioner applications and determine who is disqualified based on the commission's posted qualifications.
  4. The judges panel would select 20 potential candidates from each political party who meet the commission's qualifications and put their names into a hopper.
  5. An equal number of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents would be chosen by random.
Andy Moore, PNP Director, explains everything in simple terms

Why Stop Gerrymandering? 

While legal, gerrymandering is a trick politicians use to manipulate voting districts to benefit themselves and keep themselves in power. When politicians gerrymander, the citizens lose their right to hold legislators accountable. This results in elected officials only listening to special interests and the people lining their pockets, while doing nothing to fix Oklahoma’s real problems: our crumbling roads, struggling schools, and closing hospitals.


Source: Oklahoma Gazette

Gerrymandering has been practiced in Oklahoma for decades and has resulted in several ridiculously-shaped districts. Some of the most gerrymandered districts include:


Senate District 30

Senate District 15

Senate District 26

Each of these districts have boundaries that are purposely drawn to benefit one political party over another. Two forms of gerrymandering often used are: cracking and packing

Cracking is finding a large group from the minority party and drawing a district line through that group to divide them up into separate districts...thus limiting their ability to form a majority district. 

Packing is knowingly drawing district lines to pack as many voters of the minority party into a single district. This gives that singular district to the minority, but ensures that all surrounding districts are won by the majority party.

The odd shapes of each of the above districts show an obvious attempt to either crack or pack voters and ensure the majority party maintains control of the Oklahoma legislature.


How Can Voters Get Involved?

If the Oklahoma Supreme Court sides with PNP, they will undoubtedly need volunteers. If you'd like to volunteer with PNP, help gather signatures, or receive more information from the organization, sign up here: https://actionnetwork.org/forms/volunteer-93

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Josh DeLozier

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