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Oklahoma high court rejects redistricting state question

 

February 5, 2020



OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A proposed state question that would change how Oklahoma's congressional and legislative district lines are drawn was stricken from the ballot on Tuesday by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

The court determined that a shorthand explanation of the state question that appears on signature sheets, called a gist, didn't adequately describe the proposal.

"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," Justice Douglas Combs wrote in the majority opinion.

The group "People Not Politicians" is seeking to gather signatures to place the proposal on the ballot. They would need to gather about 178,000 signatures in 90 days to qualify. The group's executive director, Andy Moore, said the group intends to rewrite the gist and resubmit the proposed state question.

"We definitely intend to resubmit, hopefully tomorrow, weather permitting," Moore said Tuesday. "I think we are still very optimistic and believe we'll get it on the ballot."

The plan calls for an end to partisan gerrymandering of Oklahoma's legislative districts by creating an independent, bipartisan commission to draw district lines. The commission would include an equal number of Republicans, Democrats and members unaffiliated with either party, and they would be selected by a group of retired state Supreme Court and appellate judges.

The plan is being fiercely opposed by legislative Republicans, who released statements on Tuesday praising the court's ruling.

"The proposal is a solution in search of a problem given that courts have never found impermissible gerrymandering to have occurred in Oklahoma," said House Speaker Charles McCall. "We are continuing to move forward with the House's proven redistricting process that involves the entire state, strictly adheres to the law and won bipartisan praise when last used a decade ago."

The court ruled separately that the proposal is constitutional and does not violate the state's single-subject rule, two separate arguments challengers to the petition argued before the Supreme Court.

"I think it's important to note in the court's rulings today ... they unanimously upheld the constitutionality of this petition," Moore said. "This is a huge deal. Wording a paragraph is one thing. The fact that the actual policy measure is still good in their eyes is another thing."

 

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