Okla. Supreme Court Hears Anti-Gerrymandering Petition Arguments

Tuesday, January 21st 2020, 7:30 pm
By: Storme Jones

Challengers of a petition that could reshape the way voting lines are drawn in Oklahoma told the State Supreme Court technical flaws in the way the measure is written should keep it from being circulated.

“It’s about procedure,” attorney for the challengers Robert McCampbell said after the hearing. “It’s not about whether this petition is a good idea or not.”

At issue, is the language in the petition for State Question 804, which would create an independent state commission to change the state’s 149 district boundaries.

“I think anyone who looks at the maps can tell that many, many of these districts were drawn for pollical gain,” Executive Director for People Not Politicians, Andy Moore said,

His group wants voters to approve a new independent state commission to draw the lines, taking the power away from state lawmakers.

Challengers to the petition told the court the initiative combines “more than one subject” against the state constitution.

McCampbell said the petition combines changes to redistricting for both state and federal offices.

Supporters argued both changes are similar and fall under the same general category of elections,

Challengers also argued the proposed commission made up of, three Republicans, three Democrats and three unaffiliated members should be better outlines in the gist atop the page citizens sign.

“That will be a set formula,” McCampbell said. “That is very important for someone to know that the formula will always exist and will always be the same regardless of how voters are voting.”

Melanie Rughani who argued for supporters of the petition told the court including all the details McCampbell requested would make the summary far too long. She said the signature page is accompanied by the actual petition for anyone who wants to read the full proposal. 

Challengers also took issue with the petition excluding people involved in politics anywhere in the country and their family members from serving on the commission. They said that violated the First Amendment’s freedom of political association.

“There are stipulations within our policy on who can serve on the commission,” Moore said. “Which is similar to many other boards and commissions throughout government.”

If the court allows the petition to move forward, supporters will have to gather 178,000 signatures to get the issue on the 2020 ballot.