Oregon gets sixth congressional district, but where?
Oregon will have a sixth congressional seat up for grabs in 2022 under the once-a-decade shuffling of Congress, the U.S. Census announced Monday, April 26.
Where in Oregon the new seat will be located won't be known until autumn.
The additional seat also gives Oregon an additional Electoral College vote, which is based on House seats plus U.S. Senate seats. Oregon will have 8 votes for choosing the president in the 2024 election.
Oregon will also receive several billion dollars more in federal aid for medical services, schools and affordable housing that is based on a formula using the number of House districts to determine each state's share.
Gov. Kate Brown said the strong turnout in Oregon to answer the census ensured that Oregon's voice will be amplified in federal decisions.
Brown released a statement praising the "great news" of the additional seat. "Thanks to everyone who participated in the 2020 Census to make sure you were counted," Brown said.
Oregon's new seat was in apportionment, the reassignment of the 435 congressional seats after each census. The census reports Oregon's 2020 population is just under 4.24 million, up from 3.83 million in 2010.
Oregon's 10.6% increase was well above the national population growth of 7.4%, the slowest rate since the 1940 census that came after the Great Depression..
Bend had the largest population growth in Oregon — about 25 percent — during the past decade. The other largest concentration of growth was the ring of suburbs around Portland, with Gresham, Troutdale, Sandy, Estacada, Beaverton, Tigard, Newberg and St. Helens all posting strong growth.
The U.S. population in 2020 was just under 331.5 million. Census officials said a falling birthrate, slowing immigration, and deaths of an increasing number of the large post-World War II baby boom generation were the reasons for the tepid growth.
Virus disrupts the count
The sixth congressional district is the first new seat for Oregon since the 1980 census. Five other states received additional seats. Texas gets two more seats. Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina each received one.
California lost a seat for the first time in state history. It will still have the largest delegation, with 52 seats. Also losing a seat were New York, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
In an announcement that has political leaders promising to take action against the count, New York fell just 89 people short of keeping all its seats.
Democrats hold a 218-212 majority in the House. Five seats are vacant. Oregon currently has four Democrats and one Republican in its House delegation.
Each U.S. House member will now represent 761,169 people, up about 50,000 people from 2010. Numbers in each district can vary slightly.
Still to come is dividing up the districts within each state. Oregon has four Democrats and one Republican in the House.
Oregon is among 33 states where the legislature controls all or most of the process. Eight states — including California and Washington — use independent commissions to draw the maps. Two do a mix.
The disruption of the census count amid the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted redistricting in most states. The count also was whipsawed by demands from then-President Donald Trump, who wanted to add a question of citizenship to the survey, but was eventually blocked by court rulings. Trump also sought to end the census early.
Earlier forecasts had Texas receiving three new seats and Florida getting two. Each received one less. Both states have large Hispanic populations and the smaller than expected additional seats for the two states has activists questioning if Trump's actions had suppressed the count of Spanish-speaking populations.
"I assured the president that the census is complete and accurate," said Gina Raimondo, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, at a news conference on Monday afternoon.
Lawmakers work on new maps
In Oregon, the timelines for the Legislature to receive census data needed to draw congressional and legislative lines that meet civil rights and voting rights requirements has shifted from April 1 to late August or September.
The delay means the state will blow past most of the established deadlines for creating and approving legislative and congressional maps.
The Oregon Supreme Court ruled April 9 that the Legislature will have until Sept. 27 to submit maps for the state House and Senate seats, as well as congressional districts.
If lawmakers cannot agree on new districts, legislative districts would be drawn by Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, while congressional seats would be determined by a special judicial panel.
The deadline under that scenario is Oct. 18 to complete maps. With legal challenges, the Oregon Supreme Court has set Feb. 7, 2022, as the latest date for maps to be finalized. That leaves one month until the March 8, 2022, deadline for candidates to file for the May 17 primary.
If Fagan's or the judges' maps are found wanting under legal review, the Oregon Supreme Court would draw the lines itself.
The state House and Senate each have a redistricting committee that will work on the maps. But their makeup is politically asymmetrical.
Under a deal this month to end a Republican slowdown of legislation, House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, named Minority Leader Christine Drazan, R-Canby, as a sixth member of the House panel. The move gives the Republicans parity on the committee with Democrats.
Drazan said having an equal vote on the committee was crucial given the Democrats' political dominance of all facets of the reapportionment process.
"The legislature's majority, governor and secretary of state are all Democrats," Drazan said. "More than 50 percent of the Oregon Supreme Court has been appointed by this governor. We are at high risk of gerrymandering. They have the power, but we'll be able to question how it is done."
Still up in the air is how the House committee will work with the Senate's, which has retained a 3-2 Democratic majority and has Sen. Kathleen Taylor, D-Milwaukie, as chair.
A constitutional quirk allows congressional candidates to skirt the residency requirements of most political offices. The Constitution requires that Members of the House be at least 25 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years, and live in the state they represent, but not the district they are running in. The result has led to frequent "district shopping" for congressional districts across the country, especially by candidates who are squeezed out of their seats under reapportionment.
One name to take out of the mix for Oregon's new congressional seat is Brown's, according to her longtime political consultant Thomas Wheatley. He said Monday after the census announcement that Brown is not interested in running for the seat.
"I don't even see a crack," of interest from Brown, Wheatley said. "She's got a lot on her plate as it is."
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