A redistricting reform group is petitioning for Oklahoma's legislative and congressional maps to be drawn by a multi-partisan commission.
Through the petition, filed Monday, People Not Politicians aims to take the partisanship out of Oklahoma's mapmaking process. Currently, districts are drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature and approved by the governor, who is also a Republican.
People Not Politicians is a bipartisan coalition of redistricting reformers, headed by the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma and Let's Fix This. The group will have 90 days to collect almost 178,000 signatures to have this redistricting commission measure placed before voters on the ballot in 2020.
When the Supreme Court decided in June that the issue of gerrymandering was beyond the authority of the federal courts to decide, it invited state courts to step into the void.
On Monday, judges in North Carolina did just that, offering a split verdict: The judges approved the maps drawn for the state legislative districts but blocked the boundaries drawn for congressional districts.
The three-judge panel ruled that it was likely that the plaintiffs would ultimately succeed in proving that the U.S. House districts are "extreme partisan gerrymanders" in violation of the state constitution.
The judges acknowledged that redrawing congressional maps at such a late date could disrupt and even delay next year's congressional elections. "These consequences pale in comparison to voters of our state proceeding to the polls to vote, yet again, in congressional elections administered pursuant to maps drawn in violation of the North Carolina constitution."
Last year was a really good year for placing democracy reform in the hands of the electorate. This year, not so much.
In the 2018 midterms, ballot proposals adopted in more than a dozen states and cities expanded the use of automatic voter registration, independent redistricting commissions, public financing of campaigns and other democracy reform proposals.
Next week's off-year election will see only a small roster of contests with an expansion of democracy itself on the ballot, and most have relatively narrow scope and limited reach.
But good-government advocates hope a wave of victories creates momentum for a more ambitious roster of proposals to get spots on the ballot alongside the 2020 presidential election.
And while the roster of pro-democracy choices may be limited this Nov. 5, the overall number of direct-democracy opportunities is large. Not since 2007 have so many ballot measures (three dozen) gone before voters in an odd-numbered year, according to Ballotpedia.
Below are the eight items on the ballot next week that good-government advocates are watching most intently — listed alphabetically by where the voting will take place. Four are initiatives in big cities and two are statewide referenda. The others are partisan elections for offices where the future of a reliable and relatable democracy is part of what's in the offing.
Attempts by Republicans to draw legislative maps for the next decade using only the population of citizens would be discriminatory and result in extreme partisan gerrymanders all across the country, Common Cause says.
Common Cause, a venerable nonprofit advocacy group with a liberal bent, issued a report Monday titled "Whitewashing Representation," citing the failed effort by the Trump administration to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census.
Results of the census are used to calculate federal benefit allocations to states and communities and to draw the boundaries of state legislative and congressional districts. When lawmakers draw the boundaries, they often favor the party in power to an extreme. But the Supreme Court ruled this year that federal courts have no role in deciding if such partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional, kicking the issue to the states.