Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105

For Immediate Release: May 13, 2011

Sen. Constance N. Johsnon
Sen. Constance N. Johnson

Statement from Sen. Constance N. Johnson on her views about the
Senate Redistricting Process and decisions about the redrawing of Senate District 48,
created in 1965 to ensure minority representation pursuant to the Voting Rights Act

“I am deeply concerned about the way the Senate Redistricting process was carried out this session. As the Senator for one of the state’s two minority districts and a member of the minority party, I feel that many opinions and requests on how districts should have been drawn have been ignored. The Senate passed the bill today and it now goes to the House for a vote.

“Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act prohibits enactment of redistricting plans that are adopted with a discriminatory purpose. I feel strongly that the Senate Republican’s hiring of a highly paid political consultant to draw our lines led to selective discrimination against democrats and many minorities, including African Americans in Senate District 48, and Native Americans in Tahlequah. The impact on other areas has yet to be determined. The House process was more transparent and has caused less contention among members.

“I’m especially concerned about the decision to now assign a significant portion of the northeast section of Senate District 48 to Senate District 17 in Shawnee, while adding precincts selected by the committee chair (prior to a protest he had previously added the area to Senate District 41 in Edmond) to the northwestern side of the historically northeast OKC district. Given the fact that northeast Oklahoma City is a largely African American area of the city/county, I believe this decision ignores the fact that the representation of this suburban area by a predominantly rural area legislator who presently represents Shawnee will mean that this community's interests will potentially be put on the back burner. This is also an area that adds to the present and ensures the future economic diversity of District 48. An additional concern is that the House of Representatives plan keeps this area in House District 97, and thus creates a disconnect for the voters in that area with regard to connectedness between their elected state senator and representative.

“The power grab of the area east of I-35 and north of Wilshire away from Senate District 48 could be detrimental to the area’s future economic interests, and is an insult to African Americans who have remained in this area and now view these actions as gentrification from the north. Gentrification from the south has already headed for 4th Street as 2nd Street has already been reclaimed by the powers that be.

“These poorly thought out new district lines also further substantiate various other senators’ concerns about the lack of respect, inclusion and collegiality that has characterized this decade's redistricting process. No one person or party should be entrusted with making decisions that will have such far reaching and unintended consequences on the future of our state. There are numerous areas in the northeast quadrant of Oklahoma City/County that have greater minority populations than the northwest section that the Senate Redistricting Committee chair chose to include in Senate District 48. If the truth be known, the demographic changes in the northwest quadrant of Oklahoma City/County may actually support the creation of another majority-minority district. As it is, given the 'behind closed doors' nature of the process, we will never know.

The lack of collegiality in this year's redistricting process is inexcusable and bodes poorly for the future best interests of the state as a whole. I am calling on everyone who will to join in protesting the process and the outcome of the Senate redistricting plan."

"In short, something reeks in the process. By the time Oklahomans realize the disservice that the current plan represents, it will be rotted and stinking.

"I will keep speaking out publicly about the plan as the discussions now need to move from the hallowed political halls and highly partisan process to the people of Oklahoma for their reactions and input. I encourage all citizens to weigh in on the far reaching implications of what the Senate approved today."

To view or download high resolution maps of the current and new district lines, go to http://www.oksenate.gov/Senators/maps.aspx.

For more information, contact:
Sen. Johnson: (405) 521-5531

Inon: Horizontal Blue Band

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