Oklahoma Politics: April 2011 Archives

Legislative redistricting is still in progress, and congressional redistricting isn't due until next year, but the Oklahoma House already has a plan for altering the congressional lines to rebalance population to fit the 2010 census -- HB 1527. Only a handful of precincts will change hands. This is the least radical redistricting in my lifetime, and it's much less contentious than 10 years ago, when Oklahoma lost a seat, and congressional redistricting became a game of musical chairs. (Wes Watkins, already stepping down, lost that game.)

To avoid a lawsuit under the Voting Rights Act, the lines are drawn so that each congressional district has exactly the same population, plus or minus 1 person. The same thing was done in 2000. That level of precision seems ridiculous, given that between the date of the census snapshot (April 1, 2010) and the drawing of the lines a year later, the actual numbers have already changed. Allowing slightly more deviation would allow congressional districts to follow county boundaries, instead of having to be tweaked one block at a time, and some states are allowed to do that, but Oklahoma is not allowed.

As it is, only four counties will be split, and those same four counties were split in 2000: Creek (mostly 3 and a bit of 1), Rogers (mostly 2 and a bit of 1), Oklahoma (mostly 5 and a bit of 4), and Canadian (mostly 3 and a bit of 4). (The links lead to detailed maps in PDF format.)

The changes shouldn't have any effect on partisan balance, which might be considered a missed opportunity. Republicans could have easily drawn the lines to hurt Dan Boren's reelection chances.

As it is, Tulsa will continue to have two congressmen. And two of Oklahoma's congressmen will each represent two military bases -- thus District 4's incursion into Oklahoma County to lasso Tinker AFB -- and that's supposed to help with any future base realignments.

MORE: I had a question via email about my statement that Tulsa will continue to have two congressmen. The City of Tulsa is mainly in Tulsa County (385,613 people, 176.37 sq. mi.), but it extends into Osage (6,136 people, 10.80 sq. mi.), Wagoner (157 people, 13.68 sq. mi.), and Rogers (0 people, 0.13 sq. mi.) Counties as well. (The Rogers County portion is only a narrow fenceline, extending to the Tulsa Port of Catoosa.) Frank Lucas represents all of Osage County, including the 1.5% of Tulsa's population that lives there. The Osage County section of Tulsa includes Gilcrease Hills, Tulsa Country Club, and Country Club Gardens. In the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, the Osage County part of Tulsa was included in the 1st District. It might have been nice had the Legislature moved Tulsa's chunk of Osage County from CD 3 into CD 1 in exchange for the Creek County section of CD 1.

One more thing: The Legislature's early resolution of congressional district boundaries and the minimal changes they made are both huge helps to county election boards. After the 2000 census, the battle between Gov. Keating, a Republican, and the Democrat-controlled legislature over redistricting led to court, delaying official adoption of a plan until June 26, 2002, a mere 12 days before the filing period. County election boards had only two months to redraw precinct boundaries and then sort the state's voters into the new precincts. (By state law, a precinct can't be split by congressional, legislative, or county commission district boundaries.)

This time around, county election boards will have a full year. Maybe the Tulsa County Election Board can use some of that time to match precinct boundaries to city limits and school district boundaries. (I'm thinking in particular of the chunks of west Tulsa in precincts 801 and 802, and a couple of east Tulsa precincts that straddle the Tulsa-BA limit.) Cleanly drawn boundaries prevent confusion at the polling place.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has declined to issue the executive order necessary to reauthorize the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council, according to a story in the Oklahoman.

Fallin had 90 days after she took office in January to decide whether to extend the life of the councils, which were formed by executive orders issued by two earlier governors; Democrat Brad Henry formed the ethnic-American council and Republican Frank Keating formed councils dealing with Hispanic and Asian-American affairs.

Fallin deserves credit for taking the right step, given the predictable backlash from CAIR and their allies. The misleadingly named group, supported with state funds, was not about all ethnic groups or even all Middle Eastern cultures. Middle Eastern Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Baha'i were not given a seat at the table.

GEEAC would have been more accurately called the Governor's Islamic PR Council. In May 2007, the chairman of GEEAC sought an on-air opportunity to respond to the public TV series America at a Crossroads:

The Governor's Ethnic-American Advisory Council requested a chance to set the record straight after previewing the series before it ran on the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority from April 15 through 20.

"We thought there were a couple of segments that did not put Islam in a positive light," said Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour, the council's chairman.

Later in 2007, GEEAC (an agency of the State of Oklahoma, remember) offered a special centennial edition of the Koran to legislators; legislators who politely refused were publicly excoriated. An story on the Koran controversy by Brian Ervin included quotes from GEEAC chairman that confirmed the group's purpose -- advocating for Islam in Oklahoma.

"The name wasn't of my choosing, but we were happy with it. You'd have to ask the Governor why we're called that," she said.

She offered her best guess, though.

"The thing is, Islam is not limited to the Middle East--there are Muslims of West African descent and other nationalities from around the world," said Seirafi-Pour.

"If it had been called the 'Middle Eastern American Advisory Council,' it would have limited membership to Muslims of Middle Eastern descent," she added.

Seirafi-Pour was as clear on the purpose of GEEAC as Governor Henry was deliberately obtuse.

Thanks to Gov. Fallin for disbanding this inappropriate and deceptive use of taxpayer dollars and government imprimatur. Thanks to blogs like zTruth and columnists like Diana West for helping to shine a light and keep the pressure on. Thanks to legislators like State Rep. Mike Reynolds and former State Rep. Rex Duncan helping to shine the light on GEEAC's activities. And thanks to all the BatesLine readers who took action, turning reports on these pages into a positive result at the State Capitol.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Oklahoma Politics category from April 2011.

Oklahoma Politics: March 2011 is the previous archive.

Oklahoma Politics: May 2011 is the next archive.

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