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Oklahoma legislative redistricting proposals advance

Suggested new districts reflecting changes in Oklahoma's population in the past 10 years should be available in the next week or so. State lawmakers have to finish the work before the session ends in May.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: April 19, 2011
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Proposed legislative districts may be available to lawmakers in the next week or so, the chairman of the House of Representatives Redistricting Committee said Monday.

Language will be added later to two bills approved Monday by the committee. House Bill 2145 and Senate Bill 821 will go to a House conference committee after the lines are redrawn and the proposed language is inserted, said Rep. Dale DeWitt, the committee's chairman.

“That's going to be a difficult task,” said DeWitt, R-Braman.

House members have been working in five small groups putting together regional plans; those plans will be put together to come up with a statewide proposal, DeWitt said.

Legislators every 10 years — after the census figures are released — redraw the House and Senate district boundaries. If lawmakers and the governor can't agree on new lines for the 101 House and 48 Senate districts by the end of this year's session in May, a commission would take over the task. This never has happened.

More than 50 of Oklahoma's 77 counties grew in the past decade as the state's overall population grew 8.7 percent to nearly 3.8 million people, according to Census Bureau data released this year.

Ideally, each new Senate district should have about 78,000 residents and each new House district should have slightly more than 37,000 residents.

The rural areas have lost population in the past 10 years, while urban and suburban areas mostly have gained residents, DeWitt said.

Rural legislators are concerned about having to give up areas they now represent, he said.

A possible solution is taking population from six House seats whose members cannot seek re-election in 2012 because of legislative term limits. The following representatives are serving their final two-year terms and cannot seek re-election in 2012: Reps. Purcy Walker, D-Elk City, in House District 60; Paul Roan, D-Tishomingo, in House District 20; Sue Tibbs, R-Tulsa, in House District 23; Ron Peters, R-Tulsa, in House District 70; Charles Key, R-Oklahoma City, in House District 90; and Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, in House District 26.

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