Oklahoma Supreme Court Rules on Redistricting Petition

The Oklahoma Supreme Court nixed a redistricting petition Tuesday, saying the petition’s description does not adequately explain the measure, invalidating the language of State Question 804 on the grounds that its summary provided to citizens was not “sufficiently informative to reveal its design and purpose.

“We find the gist fails to alert potential signatories about the true nature of the proposed constitutional amendment,” the majority opinion concluded. “The gist is not subject to amendment by this court, and as a result, the only remedy is to strike the petition from the ballot.”

The majority opinion, written by Justice Doug Combs, was concurred with by seven other justices, although Justice James Edmondson dissented in part. Justice John Reif dissented in full.

However, the court ruled on a second legal challenge, saying the petition does not violate the First Amendment or the state’s single-subject rule, which says initiative petitions may deal with only one main issue.

The court’s ruling dealt a partial setback to a petition filed by People Not Politicians, which seeks to take redistricting power away from Oklahoma’s Legislature and vest that authority with an independent commission.

Andy Moore, executive director of People Not Politicians, said in a statement that his organization will refile its proposal to create an independent redistricting commission.

“We appreciate the court recognizing what we knew to be true all along — that our petition is constitutional. While this ruling changes nothing about our movement, we will follow the court’s helpful guidance in rewriting the gist and we will refile our petition immediately,” Moore said. “Oklahoma voters deserve the chance to vote on this measure and end partisan gerrymandering once and for all.”

Oklahoma Senate leaders on Tuesday commented on the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s ruling regarding redistricting.

 “The court made the right call. Regardless, we’ve remained focused throughout on developing a redistricting plan that will help us do our job well. We are setting up a process that will allow us to work efficiently and effectively once we receive data from the 2020 Census,” said Senator Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle and chair of the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting.

 “I’m pleased with the outcome in court. The Constitution charges the Legislature with redistricting and our planning is an effort to ensure we are up to that task,” said Senator Dave Rader, R-Tulsa and vice chair of the Select Committee on Redistricting.

 “I’m pleased with the court’s ruling. This is nothing more than a power grab by out-of-state liberal activists. As I have said before, the Senate will handle this job in a professional and thorough manner. The Senate will announce more details soon about its redistricting process,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City.

 Legislative redistricting takes place every 10 years following the release of U.S. Census data. The state Constitution provides that each legislative chamber oversees redistricting efforts to ensure districts are updated as necessary to reflect any population changes.

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