Voter impact arises as issue in council redistricting plan

Tulsa World (OK) - Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Author: KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer

View current council boundaries and the five proposals. 

Just as many elected officials and former elected officials as private individuals showed up at Tuesday's public meeting on City Council redistricting. 

City Councilors Maria Barnes and G.T. Bynum were there, as was former Mayor Kathy Taylor. 

But it was a question by the vice chairman of the Tulsa County Democratic Party that sparked the most discussion at yet another sparsely attended meeting of the Tulsa Election District Commission. 

The official, Mike Whelan, suggested that the commission provide information on how each redistricting plan would affect the registered voter count in each district. 

"If someone truly likes their city councilor, having some information available to them, that lets them independently assess the likelihood of keeping their city councilor, because redrawing the lines will have implications on those running for office," Whelan said. 

Staffing for the commission is being provided by the Indian Nations Council of Governments. Its executive director, Rich Brierre, explained that voter registration is not a factor considered by the commission when redrawing council boundaries. 

Instead, rules dictate that districts be compact, contiguous and as equal in population as possible. 

The districts are being redrawn to reflect the 2010 U.S. Census. 

Taylor praised the commission for its work but suggested that as much information as possible regarding the process be made available to the public. 

"I just think for confidence in the process and transparency, which I know you're in favor of, it would be great to have it online," she said. 

The proposals are on the Tulsa World's website at 

Eugene Martin, 70, encouraged commissioners to change the council boundaries as little as possible. If that's done, "in my opinion, fewer people will use the excuse of, 'Well, I didn't know where to vote," Martin said. 

"It seems we need to try to do everything we can to encourage people to vote." 

Tuesday's public meeting was the fifth held by the commission to receive public input on its five proposals for redrawing the city's nine City Council districts. 

Steps in the Tulsa City Council redistricting process 

Events leading up to the commission's creation of a final draft and vote on new City Council boundaries: 

May 5: 

2 p.m. commission meeting to discuss proposals, Central Center at Centennial Park, Sixth Street and Peoria Avenue 

May 27: 

Tentative date for final public hearing 

Early June: 

Commission votes on City Council district boundaries 

After the state legislative, U.S. congressional and Tulsa County Commission districts have been redrawn, the Tulsa County Election Board will form new precinct boundaries. This will be completed by Dec. 1. The council may then make adjustments to the new council district boundaries to conform with the new precinct boundaries.