Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021
Capitol Watch

How To Make Your Voice Heard Before Oklahoma’s Redistricting Session

Lawmakers are asking the public to submit redistricting map proposals in advance of a special session slated for Nov. 15. The Legislature has partnered with Dave’s Redistricting App, a free program that allows the public to redraw House, Senate and congressional boundaries, in order to allow citizens to submit proposals to the Legislature. This shows a template for the congressional map. (Trevor Brown/Oklahoma Watch)

By Trevor Brown | Capitol/Investigative Reporter

All eyes will be on the Legislature next month when lawmakers return to the State Capitol for a special session in order to complete their once-every-decade redistricting work.

Gov. Kevin Stitt announced last week that he is calling lawmakers into a special session on Nov. 15 to focus on redistricting work that must be completed this year. 

State officials hoped to finish months ago. But a delay from the U.S. Census Bureau in delivering the data caused states, including Oklahoma, to scramble to finish in time for the 2022 elections. 

I wrote last week for Oklahoma Watch about the next steps, the latest Census data and the far-reaching impacts of what they decide. (Also check out the data visualization I created showing which counties gained or lost population since 2010.)

But I also wanted to talk about how the public can weigh in. Though Oklahoma is one of 30 states without a citizen-led redistricting committee or advisory panel, there are avenues to let your voice be heard.

In addition to allowing the public to submit general comments to the Senate and House websites, lawmakers have set an Oct. 10 deadline for any Oklahoma citizen to send in their own map submission.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a data scientist, geographic information system expert or tech wiz to do this. The Legislature earlier this year partnered with Dave’s Redistricting App, a free redistricting mapping resource, that allows users to make their own maps and submit them to the Legislature. 

After reading up on the Legislature’s guidelines for the House, Senate and congressional maps as well as the detailed instructions (and some explainers from the creator of the app), I decided to try my hand at it. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but here are some tips to get started:

  1. Head here first to go to Oklahoma page and decide if you want to create a map for the House, Senate or congressional plans.
  2. Click on the paint brush to the right of the “View Only” circle near the top left. This will give you an editable version of the map.
  3. Use the “District Selector” on the top left to chose the district that you want to manipulate. Click on the paint brush next to that to add a county, precinct, city or Census block into that district or use the eraser to remove areas from the district.
  4. Once you’ve made some changes, click the “Show District Statistics,” “Show Analysts” or “Compare Maps” to see how your map compares to others and to see if it conforms with the redistricting requirements (such as requiring that each district has roughly the same population, the districts are contiguous and they are free of holes). This will also let you know how competitive the maps are and if one party is favored ahead of another.
  5. When you are satisfied with your changes, you can export the data or click the “Share Map” button near the top right to generate a link to your map. If you want, you can email the House or Senate at redistrictoklahoma2020@okhouse.gov or redistricting@oksenate.gov along with your name, organization (if applicable), contact information, a statement summarizing what priorities you used for your map and the link if you want it considered part of the public record.

Oklahoma Watch is planning more coverage of the state’s redistricting work, so we also want to hear what you think. Do you have thoughts on the redistricting process or what you’d like to see in the end product? Or do you have a map you want to share with us? If so, email me at tbrown@oklahomawatch.org or find me on Twitter at @tbrownokc.

The Top Story

Capt. Kory Conley speaks with an inmate at Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington. (Courtesy Oklahoma Department of Corrections)

Corrections Department Plans Sign-On Bonuses, Temporary Pay Raises As Prison Staffing Problems Persist

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections plans to provide a $2,500 sign-on bonus to newly hired prison officers and temporarily boost pay for employees working in especially understaffed facilities. 

Oklahoma Watch’s Keaton Ross reports that the agency’s staffing levels have dropped significantly over the past year, resulting in officers working excessive overtime and decreased employee morale,  corrections director Scott Crow told the state Board of Corrections on Wednesday afternoon. [Read More]

Tweet Watch

There’s a whole new slate of legislative interim meetings coming up.

Topics range from direct primary care (1 p.m. Tuesday in room 206 by the House Public Health Committee) to the pair of studies Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City, mentioned in her tweet that will be held by the Senate Education Committee.

To see a full list of what’s coming visit the House’s meeting notice page as well as the Senate’s meeting notice page.

What I’m Reading This Week

  • An estimated one in four teachers have health conditions that put them at higher risk of serious illness if they contract COVID-19, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation released last year. [Oklahoma Watch]
  • As Texans seeking abortions inundate Oklahoma clinics, providers and reproductive rights advocates are concerned about new laws set to take effect here in November. [The Frontier]
  • Oklahoma has the highest mortality rate of police violence of all 50 states and the highest rate of underreporting the killings, according to estimates in a study released Thursday. [The Oklahoman]
  • It appears that COVID-19 cases among children are falling, and the timing of the decline coincides with an increase of mask mandates in Oklahoma schools. [KOSU]
  • Oklahoma’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on a downward trajectory for about a month now but not enough to lift some limitations on levels of care available — especially in intensive-care units. [Tulsa World]

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