Delay in redrawing precincts would confuse voters, election board official says

The Oklahoma State Election Board secretary filed papers with the state Supreme Court saying he intends to use the Senate redistricting plan approved earlier this year to redraw voting precincts. His office will not have time to redraw them if a legal challenge is allowed to continue, he says.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: August 20, 2011

The head of Oklahoma's elections has given notice to the state Supreme Court that he intends to use the Senate redistricting plan approved this year by the Legislature and governor, despite a lawsuit filed with the high court challenging its constitutionality.

State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said he plans to proceed with using the Senate redistricting plan unless he is ordered or prohibited by the Supreme Court from doing so.

The Senate redistricting plan is needed to draw new precincts for the 2012 elections, which have to be done by the second week of September in time for candidates to file in December for Oklahoma's presidential preferential primary in March, he said.

Delays in preparing the precinct lines “would create a very high risk of voter confusion and chaos,” Ziriax wrote in an affidavit with the Supreme Court earlier this week. “At worst, this would result in the disenfranchisement of voters.”

Ziriax also said the Election Board has only enough money to redraw the county's voting precincts once.

“If a second round of reprecincting is required because of court-ordered changes to district lines, the state Election Board would not have sufficient funds to complete this task,” he said.

Redistricting opposed

Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah, filed a lawsuit last month asking the high court to toss out the redistricting plan drawn up by the Republican-controlled Senate and later approved by the GOP-controlled House of Representatives and Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican. He said the plan violates the principles of compactness and equality of population by focusing on making it safe for Republicans to maintain control of the Senate.

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