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Commentary: It's about people

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The U.S. Supreme Court made headlines over the past few weeks as it rendered decisions on the highly charged issues of healthcare, marriage equality and the death penalty. It also rendered another ruling that generated comparatively fewer headlines but might ultimately have the biggest impact on the landscape of politics for future generations.

In the case Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the court permitted the use of independent commission to draw legislative districts. About 12 states use a bipartisan commission to draw their district lines, and Oklahoma would be wise to follow suit.

An independent commission could curb the practice of gerrymandering to benefit incumbent legislators, create more compact and contiguous districts and ensure that elected officials more closely reflect the makeup of their constituents.

The U.S. Congress has an approval rating of around 15 percent, but in last year’s election, 96.4 percent of congressional incumbents were reelected. A large factor in their reelection is that political parties were able to draw lines that protected their incumbents. Citizens should be able to choose their representatives, not the other way around.

This is not a partisan issue. For over 100 years, Democrats controlled the redistricting process, and now, Republicans hold a supermajority in the Oklahoma Legislature.

Both parties have abused their power to draw districts. The most recent Oklahoma State Senate district map was actually drawn with input from a Republican political consultant.

As a political professional myself, I believe that power should never rest in our hands. It is time that we adopt a fair and transparent process that benefits the people, not individual legislators and political parties.

Oklahoma’s voter turnout in 2014 hit an all-time low. Part of the reason for this is due to voters being turned off by the divisive nature of politics.

Sen. David Holt, a Republican from Oklahoma City, took it upon himself to develop measures that would increase access to the polls and encourage more Oklahomans to vote. I call upon leaders from both parties to follow suit and support an independent redistricting commission that could create more compact and competitive districts that benefit everyday Oklahomans.

Perhaps with a more fair process we could have a Legislature and a Congress that represents their constituents, not political parties or their individual ambitions.

Joe Hartman is a political consultant and chairman of the Oklahoma County Democratic Party.

Print headline: People, not politics

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