With population growth in the Metro areas of Oklahoma, extreme rural areas will see legislative representation diluted even more in the redistricting process.
District 58 Rep. Carl Newton opened the public redistricting meeting on Wednesday evening at High Plains Technology Center.
“A couple interesting facts; Northwest Oklahoma grew (in population) only 1 percent,” Newton said. “The State grew 5 percent. So we're a little bit behind.”
According to Newton, Southwest Oklahoma population dropped by 1 percent and Southeast Oklahoma dropped by 2½ percent.
By law, every 10 years the Legislature must redraw its legislative and congressional district boundaries to reflect changes in population immediately following the decennial Census.
“West of I-35 and North of I-40, there are 14 representatives that cover that whole Northwest portion of the State of Oklahoma,” Newton said. “I think the two largest districts are in Northwest Oklahoma. We cover a lot of territory and get a lot of miles on our vehicles. It’s also an honor. Like I tell people, I’ve got the best people in the state that live in Northwest Oklahoma.”
Newton, a republican from Cherokee is the Northwest Oklahoma Subcommittee Chairman and District 47 Representative Brian Hill from Mustang is Vice-chairman.
Other members of the Northwest Oklahoma Subcommittee include:
• District 41 – Denise Crosswhite Hader, R-Piedmont
• District 43 – Jay Steagall, R-Yukon
• District 57 – Anthony Moore, R-Clinton
• District 59 – Mike Dobrinski, R-Okeene
• District 60 – Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon
• District 61 – Kenton Patzkowsky, R-Balko
• District 55 – Todd Russ, R-Cordell
Patzkowsky’s district is about 8,000 square miles, including the panhandle to part of Woodward County.
“Cimarron, Texas, Beaver, and then I have Harper on the north and Ellis on the south, and a little sliver of Woodward County from 10 years ago redistricting to make up enough population,” Patzkowsky said.
“Land mass, I have the largest geographical house district in the State of Oklahoma.”
In comparison, the smallest is District 89 in Oklahoma City with 8 square miles.
“But they get the same number of votes; one,” Newton said. “There is some looking at shifting (districts) east and a little bit south.”
According to the latest data, Patzkowsky’s district will need to expand a little over 2,000 more in population because of loss in the Panhandle area.
“He can't go west, can’t go north, can’t go south so he's got to come, push this way east, and a little bit south maybe,” Newton said. “But that's our options.”
Crosswhite Hader’s district is the second most increased in the state and has gained 16 percent. The over 7,700 growth in population is from Garfield County and the Metro area. Hill also gained over 4,000 in Mustang.
Former Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon addressed the audience about the public led redistricting process.
“There's so much going on in our country right now so much unrest and turmoil,” Shannon said. “It does my heart good, people are still willing to get involved in a process of something that is so important as redistricting. Your presence here tonight proves that you really care.”
According to the initial analysis, Northwest Oklahoma will retain the same number of seats, but more of the representation will be closer to more populated areas.
“The reality is this is just another piece of legislation. It's a statute that will be codified,” Shannon said. “And because of that, even after these public meetings, and even after the website Seville portion of it continues to be a factor, you will still have the opportunity just like other legislation to have input at the committee level. And you can use those committee meetings will be public just like salaries our public is encouraged and welcomed they will be asked participate at that time as well.”
While the meeting was open to the public and live-streamed, anyone who was unable to attend may email comments to email@example.com. All comments will be shared with the committees.