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The Shawnee News-Star
  • House redistricting moves forward, Senate plan stalls

  • The Oklahoma House of Representatives reached a compromise on redistricting plans while Oklahoma Democrats feel targeted in the state Senate.


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  • The Oklahoma House of Representatives reached a compromise on redistricting plans while Oklahoma Democrats feel targeted in the state Senate.
    “Senate discussions are heated,” Sen. Charlie Laster said. “In the House, with Speaker Kris Steele in charge, they have gotten together and hammered out an agreement. In the Senate we have had the most blatantly biased operation. The Senate hired a Republican operative to draw redistricting lines to benefit Republicans. Republican leadership has paid this man $150,000 to do redistricting, which has never been done before.”
    The House plan for redistricting has been sent back to the Senate.
    “We just don’t know yet, it’s very much influx at the moment,” Laster said. “I have seen three maps and they were all drastically different.”
    Laster, in District 17, represents Shawnee and most of Pottawatomie County.
    “It looks bad to me, it looks as if they want to split Shawnee and Tecumseh and move my district north,” Laster said. “I think the district needs to be a Pottawatomie County seat and not a Eastern Oklahoma seat.”
    The proposed maps for the Oklahoma House have been released but no Senate maps have been released to date.
    “This man has studied the political lines in the state to draw as many Democrats out of their districts as possible,” Laster said. “Or to ensure that they can’t win a reelection. This has become a bitter partisan action.”
    The Associated Press reports the Republican political strategist, Karl Ahlgren, was hired by the Senate to help redraw districts.
    “Negotiations have begun,” Laster said. “This gives us hope. But I have my doubts that the Senate Republicans would pay this man $150,000 to put the screws to the Democrats only to back out at the 11th hour.”
    The Oklahoma House plan would expand the area of representation for Speaker Steele south of Shawnee to Benson Park Road and west to include Bethel Acres.
    Messages for comment from Steele were not returned by press time.
    “Overall it was a wash for me,” District 32 Rep. Danny Morgan, said. “My numbers didn’t change and my mass didn’t change. I gave up some areas of Creek County, but I was able to unify Lincoln County.”
    Rep. Josh Cockroft’s district will no longer include his hometown of McLoud, and parts of southern Cleveland County, as those areas are being replaced by parts of northern Cleveland County skirting the borders of Moore and Norman. Messages for comment from Cockroft were not returned by press time.
    “Ninety percent of my constitutes will see no change,” Morgan said. “Citizens living in the far northeast of my district will have a new representative while southwest Lincoln County will now be represented solely by me.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The House redistricting plan will now go back to the State Senate.
    “Federal law says that we have to make sure everyone has equal representation,” Morgan said. “We don’t want one district with 40,000 people and another with 20,000. There are 3.7 million people in Oklahoma, and we want to make sure that each vote is equal.”
    Morgan said a population boom in Eastern Oklahoma could result in more jobs that would spur the local economy.
    “We have seen some population movement from Oklahoma City into the Tri-county area,” Morgan said. “This is good, because where the people go so go the jobs. Businesses are looking at where people are located so it is encouraging to see an increase in population in this area.”
    Morgan said If the redistricting is not finished by May 22, the districts would then be drawn by a seven member board.
    Area redistricting maps are now available on the News-Star website, www.news-star.com.
    ———
    Robby Short may be contacted by calling 214-3934

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