TULSA, Okla. – A new report released by People Not Politicians shows “Oklahoma’s current state legislative and congressional districts were drawn to benefit politicians and political parties rather than to accurately represent the citizens of Oklahoma.”
Following the 2020 decennial census, the Oklahoma state Legislature will undertake the task of redistricting the states voting precincts. The newly drawn lines will remain in place for the next decade, shaping the political leadership for all Oklahomans. But as is the case in most instances of severe gerrymandering, black and other minority populations will face a less equitable democratic participation process.
TL;DR – Gerrymandering is a sneaky form of voter suppression that advocates say needs to be reformed immediately.
New data reveals how gerrymandering negatively effects minorities
There has long been an absence of data driven analysis that examines and analyzes Oklahoma’s redistricting process. And no one has challenged the historical abuses the majority party carries out. People Not Politicians Executive Director Andy Mohr explains why their organization has taken on this issue.
“Oklahoma voters have long suspected our maps are gerrymandered but until now no one has taken the time to actually look at the numbers” Moore said. “This study analyzes each of our legislative and congressional districts five different ways. It shows that nearly 75% of seats had no competitive races in the past 10 years. When three out of four elections are effectively decided before any votes are cast, it’s clear that the legislatures redistricting process needs to be improved.”
It’s not hard to get bogged down with all of the information surrounding the negative effects of partisan gerrymandering. But it’s important to highlight that minority populations are almost always disproportionately affected.
Gerrymandering dilutes black political power
State legislators have been lessening the political power Black and Brown Oklahomans have by packing minority voters into majority-minority districts. They have consequently diluted these voters’ influence elsewhere. It may seem beneficial to have a district in which more than 50% of the voters belong to a minority population. However, when this occurs, the probability that voters of color will have significant influence in elections of other districts becomes far less likely; thus, reducing the amount of seats throughout the state they have a say in filling.
Dr. Andrea Benjamin is associate professor in the Clara Luper Department of African and African-American Studies at the University of Oklahoma. In a press release from People Not Politicians, he said, “it is vitally important that elected leaders reflect the diversity of the people they represent. Minority communities have long been under-represented in the state Legislature. This report can help guide the redistricting process to improve representation.”
Click here to view the full report and associated data tables on the People Not Politicians website.