Pictured: Fifth Congressional District
New Congressional District Boundaries
“I am grateful to members of the Oklahoma Legislature who carried out their constitutional responsibility and redrawing these district maps,” said Stitt. “Following an open and transparent process that included public input, these maps were passed with majority support in both the House and the Senate and I am pleased to execute the will of Oklahomans by signing these new maps into law.”
Senate Bill 1x creates the new Senate districts, House Bill 1001 sets the House districts and House Bill 1002 sets the boundaries for the five congressional districts. The other three bills dealt with residency requirements, how elections will be handled after April 5, 2022, and party registration requirements to run for office.
The Special Session was necessary to address redistricting issues caused by the delayed release of 2020 census data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The new census data was not released until September 30 due to the pandemic. Under the Oklahoma Constitution, the Legislature must redraw its legislative and congressional district boundaries to reflect changes in population every 10 years following the decennial Census. The 2020 census data set the statewide population at 3,959,353 people. Nearly two-thirds of Oklahoma counties saw their population decrease, losing a combined total of 69,000. But the remaining counties, which are mostly urban and suburban areas, saw their populations grow by about 277,000 people. Overall, the state saw a net gain of about 208,000 people.
Based on the 2020 U.S. Census, Oklahoma was apportioned five seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, the same number it received after the 2010 census. As required by federal statute to evenly divide congressional districts, Districts 1, 2 and 3 have populations of 791,871 each, and Districts 4 and 5 have populations of 791,870 each. The new congressional boundary maps keep 87 percent of Oklahomans in the same district.
The congressional redistricting modified the First District by shifting Washington County and eastern Wagoner County from the First District to the Second which covers most of eastern Oklahoma. And the portion in eastern Creek County was expanded to include Sapulpa. All of Tulsa County and a small part of western Rogers County remain in the district. The adjustments were necessary following the increase of population in the Tulsa metropolitan area, which is the bulk of the district.
For the last decade, the Fifth District has included most of Oklahoma County and all of Pottawatomie and Seminole counties. But, the redistricting made several adjustments to the district (see map above this story), including expanding the district into three additional counties. Lincoln County and the southern part of Logan County, including Guthrie, were added to the northern side of the district. Previously they were part of the Third District which covers most of the north central and western parts of the state, including the panhandle. And a portion of eastern Canadian County, including Yukon and Piedmont, was also added. This area was also formerly in the Third District. Meanwhile, a portion of south Oklahoma City and a part near downtown were shifted from the Fifth District to the Third. Whether intended or by coincidence, these boundary changes will make it more difficult for Democrats to flip the district as they did in 2018. The areas added to the district tend to vote Republican, while the areas removed tend to vote Democrat. This effectively changes the Fifth District from Purple to Red politically.
There were no significant changes to the Fourth District which covers much of south central and the southwestern parts of the state. The portion of Oklahoma County which includes Midwest City and Tinker Air Force Base remain in the Fourth District, which also includes Fort Sill near Lawton. That keeps these two important military installations in the same district, which is politically beneficial for their preservation.
The boundary changes made the First and Fifth districts more cohesive. While the previous boundaries for the First District had a narrow portion (Washington County) which extended from Tulsa to the Kansas border, the new boundaries confine the district to Tulsa and the surrounding area. The previous Fifth District boundaries had only a narrow connection between Oklahoma County and Pottawatomie County. The addition of Lincoln County extended this connection to the eastern portion of the district, up the entire eastern boundary of Oklahoma County.
Despite objections from Democrats and charges of gerrymandering, the modified congressional districts were approved by both legislative chambers. On November 17, the Oklahoma House voted 75-19 to approve the map. On November 19, the Oklahoma State Senate voted to approve 36-10.
While the main focus of the Special Session was setting the boundaries for the congressional districts, the session also had to reconsider the boundaries of state legislative districts approved in the last regular legislative session. By law, the redistricting plans for the state legislative districts had be completed by May 28, 2021, the constitutionally mandated conclusion of the first regular legislative session following the end of the census. On May 12, the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Oklahoma Senate each in bipartisan and overwhelming votes approved new legislative district maps. Governor Stitt later signed the plans into law. Those plans were based on Oklahoma’s population per the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015-2019 American Community Survey, rather than the 2020 U.S. Census data which was not yet available.
Oklahoma’s House of Representatives is made up of 101 districts; Oklahoma’s State Senate is made up of 48 districts. When those districts were approved last May, it was acknowledged that those boundaries might need to be adjusted. “As contemplated this session, the House map enacted in regular session will need adjustment in special session. Statewide population in the final Census data was generally within estimates, but some individual House districts did see deviation beyond the estimates,” said Rep. Ryan Martinez (R-Edmond) chairman of the House State and Federal Redistricting Committee. No adjustments were necessary for the state Senate districts. The adjusted House map was approved 88-3 on November 17, and the Senate approved the House map 44-2 on November 19.
The new legislative and congressional district boundaries go into effect for Oklahoma’s 2022 elections, and will remain in effect until after the 2030 U.S. Census.