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Oklahoma Republican officials respond to gerrymandering accusations

Catherine Sweeney / StateImpact Oklahoma
House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, talks with members of the media on November 2, 2021.

Oklahoma lawmakers released their final updated map of the state's congressional districts on Monday, a few weeks ahead of a special session on redistricting.

Critics noted that the update further segmented Oklahoma City's urban core, which elected the delegation's lone Democrat to the 5th District for one term in 2018.

The new lines also removed the predominantly Latino southwestern portion of the city from the 5th district, moving it to the predominantly rural District 3, which spans all the way through the panhandle. Critics also noted that the state's other most populous city and county, Tulsa, sit in one district.

A new Congressional District map proposed by Oklahoma Republicans.

On Tuesday afternoon, House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, rejected the accusations, arguing that Oklahomans of all stripes got to make their own recommendations at town hall meetings and other events.

"I believe the process was completely apolitical and engaged everybody," McCall said.

The legislature will convene in a weeklong special session to consider and adopt the updated map starting on Nov. 15.

Vaccine legislation could be considered, but it's unlikely

Oklahoma's annual legislative sessions run from February to May. To meet outside of those months, the constitution says either the governor or a two-thirds majority of lawmakers can call a special session. But it has to have a specific, pre-designated purpose.

The special session that kicks off Nov. 15, as of now, says lawmakers can focus only on that new congressional map.

However, Gov. Kevin Stitt or a majority of lawmakers could amend the call.

Several top Republicans statewide have been criticizing COVID-19 vaccine mandates for employees, especially since the Biden Administration announced one for the federal workforce.

But, McCall doubts that will happen.

"We don't really speculate on hypothetical things, it would be very late for the governor to add this," McCall said.

Although some members have voiced support to open the session to vaccine bills, McCall believes the statehouse already passed legislation that allows the attorney general to fight those battles in court.

Catherine Sweeney reports for StateImpact Oklahoma, focusing on health.
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