Despite 20-degree weather Monday evening, dozens of Norman residents travelled to the OU Innovation Hub to hear about a petition regarding gerrymandering.
People Not Politicians, an Oklahoma coalition, hosted a town hall meeting to discuss a petition they are spearheading to get on the 2020 Oklahoma ballot. The petition is centered around creating an independent commission that would be responsible for redrawing both state and congressional voting districts after the U.S. Census population count, which occurs every decade.
Andy Moore, the group's executive director, said they created the petition because of problems with politicians drawing the voting district lines themselves - otherwise known as gerrymandering. Moore said the process not only lacks transparency but also allows politicians to draw district lines in a way that favors them to get re-elected.
"The issue of gerrymandering isn't new. It's been around for awhile," Moore said. "Regardless of which party it is or how many parties there are, politicians should not be drawing their own district lines. What we're trying to do is take that power from the politicians and give it back to the people so there's no conflict of interest, and so that politicians have to be held accountable to the voters."
The commission, if passed, would be independent from the Legislative and Executive branches. It would include three Republicans, three Democrats, and three Independents, and the candidates would be vetted by retired Oklahoma justices.
Anyone would be eligible to apply for a spot on the commission, provided they meet the criteria, which prohibits applicants from being registered lobbyists, candidates for partisan office or an immediate family member of an elected official. The applicants would then be selected at random by drawing names out of a hat.
The idea is to eliminate partisan bias in drawing voting district lines as well as create transparency in the process, he said.
"Once it was announced that the Supreme Court wasn't going to rule on partisan gerrymandering, it became clear that something had to be done," Moore said. "At different times, both parties have attempted to create an independent commission to change (gerrymandering), but the party in power always shuts it down. So it became pretty clear that neither political party is going to change this through the legislature. It's going to have to be through a measure through the people."
During the town hall, Moore asked attendees to describe their feelings towards gerrymandering. Attendees used words such as "corrupt," "manipulated," "cheated" and "frustrated."
Jan New, an attendee and Cleveland County resident, said she will vote to approve the independent commission if it makes it to next year's ballot.
"Myself and a few friends are willing to carry the petition around and try to get signatures for this petition," New said. "This is an issue that all Oklahomans should care about. It's time to get the politicians out of this process."
Moore said the petition is currently being evaluated by the Oklahoma Secretary of State. If the petition is approved, he said they will have 90 days to gather 178,000 signatures to get the petition on next year's ballot. If it is passed, the commission will be created prior to the next redistricting process, which is set for 2021.
He said the current gerrymandering process has negatively impacted many Oklahomans the last few decades, and he hopes people will take notice of this petition and support it.
"We want people who care about this state, someone who is not biased and someone who is willing to draw congressional lines in a fair way," Moore said. "Is that too much to ask?"
The Norman stop was part of a 10-city tour. The next town hall meeting is tonight in Woodward. To find additional town hall meetings or learn more about the petition, visit www.peoplenotpoliticians.org.
Jesse Crittenden366-3540Follow me @firstname.lastname@example.org.