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Mapmakers


The redistricting of Oklahoma City’s wards is under way.

Clifton Adcock August 3rd, 2011

Oklahoma City is starting the process of redrawing its ward boundaries and will be holding a public meeting this month to discuss the plan.

The City Council wards, as required by federal law and the city charter, are redrawn every 10 years after the census is taken to ensure that each encompasses near-equal populations.

There are a few proposed changes in the ward lines, such as all of the Capitol Hill community being included in Ward 6.

The city is inviting residents to review the changes and provide input on the proposed ward map during a public meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council Chamber, located on the third floor of City Hall.

The new ward lines are scheduled to receive a final hearing on Aug. 30 and are expected to take effect Sept. 30.

Late last year, some residents of the Capitol Hill district, located south of downtown, asked that an inner-city south-side ward be created, rather than breaking the historic community up into several wards, as was the case.

At the time, some on the council were interested in the idea of expanding the number of City Council wards from eight to 10.

“There’s no way to create an inner-city ward like you’re talking about without expanding the total number of council members,” Ward 4 Councilman Pete White said last November. “I’ve been looking at it for 20 years, and there’s only one way to do it, and that’s to go to 10 wards.”

However, not all were on board with the idea of expanding the number of council seats to 10.

“If we draw the lines so close to represent each interest in a ward, we’re going to have hundreds of wards,” Ward 8 Councilman Pat Ryan said at the time.

A poll of 303 registered voters in Oklahoma City conducted late last year by SoonerPoll.com and sponsored by Oklahoma Gazette showed a plurality of those surveyed supported adding council wards.

The phone poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.26 percent.

According to the results, 39.6 percent of those asked said they supported expanding the number of wards to 10, while 31.1 percent opposed such a measure. Nearly 30 percent were neutral or had no opinion.

However, the current map keeps the eight-ward format, but does contain some shifts in the lines.

For instance, the proposed map shows that Ward 8 loses a significant portion of its western side to Ward 1 as well as some of its current eastern boundary to Ward 7.

Under the proposed map, the southern end of Ward 6 would extend down to Ward 5, cutting off a strip of Ward 4 that had separated them, but would also lose some of its eastern boundary to wards 4 and 7.

Geographically, Ward 1 gains the most area, while Ward 8 loses the most.

Jane Abraham, redistricting coordinator, said city and council staff have been meeting with council members to determine the best new ward lines.

Since some wards gained or lost population or were thrown off the optimal number by the overall increase in citywide population, those drawing the boundaries had to perform a delicate operation. Abraham said that included not overturning long-established lines, keeping historical communities together and taking in enough to bring lacking ones in-line without upsetting the numbers in other areas, all while using easily identifiable boundary lines.

“It’s a real balancing act to get everyone as balanced as much as possible, but taking into consideration the other things that are important,” she said. “You look at the map, and it’s the center that’s kind of a challenge. When you start tweaking boundaries in one area, it kind of pushes you around in a circle.”

Adding additional wards was considered, Abraham said, but ultimately the current eight-ward system was considered to be working.

“It was something that was talked about, but really the decision, I think, was the system’s not broken,” she said.

 
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