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Would a commission proposed in State Question 748 depoliticize redistricting or create a new set of problems?


Scott Cooper September 23rd, 2010

Should SQ 748 pass, a new commission would be set up to handle such a case before a judge would have to be called.

CongressionalDistricts
While some questions appearing on the state ballot this November are getting lots of attention " like State Question 744 mandating increased funding for education " there are other, lesser-known questions that could have great impact down the road.

One is State Question 748, which would change the rules concerning legislative and congressional redistricting.

Currently, every state is required to redraw the boundaries of elected representatives for the state Legislature and U.S. House of Representatives after each census. The goal is to give equal representation for every citizen as states deal with population and migration changes. Many times, states, including Oklahoma, have been unable to draw the lines and shift the matter to the legal court system.

Should SQ 748 pass, a new commission would be set up to handle such a case before a judge would have to be called.

University of Oklahoma political science professor Keith Gaddie, who is used as an expert witness in many cases nationwide, said he sees no downside to creating a commission because a lawsuit usually costs a state $2 million.

"It's an improvement over the status quo," Gaddie said.

Under the proposed provision, a six-member commission would be established, with the governor, speaker of the House and Senate president pro tem each choosing two members of the commission: one Democrat and one Republican. The lieutenant governor would serve as chair of the committee, but in a non-voting capacity. The proposal would change a committee that currently exists of the state attorney general, state superintendent of schools and the state treasurer.

Gaddie said some pitfalls remain with a new commission under the proposal.

"A commission can be most anything, is the problem," he said. "They don't all work the same. It's still a partisan circumstance, and you could end up with a bipartisan gerrymander as much as a partisan gerrymander.

"A true commission is one that actually crafts the maps and presents those maps to the Legislature. That's what Iowa does. That commission is a nonpartisan commission, which is not the same as a bipartisan commission. When you say 'commission,' that's sounds very 'good government.' The problem is that not all commissions are created equal. These commissions are mainly reactive commissions, which are basically partisan."

It would take a vote of at least four members of the new commission to approve a redistricting map.

While avoiding a convoluted court battle, Gaddie said the judicial process is not always a bad thing.

"What's neat about litigation is a variety of parties can get to the table and make their case who might not have been able to do so through the Legislature," he said. "They can get lawyers and bring up witnesses and cross-examine witnesses as anybody else. It's not just the Legislature and the governor. We ran into this in Texas in 2001 where they were 13 different parties to the litigation."

In 2002, Oklahoma did seek a court remedy over the redrawing on congressional districts. "Scott Cooper

State Question 748
If the state Legislature fails to reapportion legislative seats after the decennial census, a new commission would be created to complete the task. The existing three-member commission on reapportionment, consisting of the attorney general, state superintendent of schools and state treasurer, would change to six members appointed by the governor, speaker of the House and Senate president pro tem, with the lieutenant governor serving as chair of the commission in a non-voting manner.

A "yes" vote means to change the commission.

A "no" vote means to leave the reapportion commission currently as it stands. "SC

above Oklahoma Congressional Districts, 2002-2010 Elections

 
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