League of Women Voters to hold redistricting education forum
Got questions about redistricting?
The League of Women Voters of Oregon is holding a forum at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, to educate people about the redistricting process. The program will be held in Room 103 at Portland Community College's Willow Creek Center, located at 241 S.W. Edgeway Drive in Hillsboro.
The redistricting forum will feature Candalynn Johnson, campaign coordinator for the League of Women Voters, and state League president Norman Turrill.
Attendees will be able to ask questions about the redistricting process and how it could be reformed.
The League of Women Voters, an officially nonpartisan political organization, has been a vocal critic of Oregon's redistricting process.
As in most states, the Legislature is responsible for setting new district boundaries for the Oregon House of Representatives, the Oregon Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives — in effect, putting lawmakers in charge of selecting their own constituencies, although state law does prohibit the drawing of districts to favor "a political party, incumbent or other person."
Districts are also required to be both geographically contiguous and have transportation connections, and where possible, they are to follow "existing geographic or political boundaries" and avoid dividing "communities of interest."
"Oregon is among many states where partisan elected officials may be tempted to distort the districts they represent for their personal or partisan advantage," the League of Women Voters argued in a statement announcing Thursday's forum. "When legislators have control of where the lines get drawn, voters allow a system where gerrymandering can take priority over fair representation."
The League supports reforms that "promote putting the process of redistricting back into the hands of voters to create fair and representative districts," it added.
Any substantial change to Oregon's redistricting process would require an amendment to the state constitution.
Oregon will next conduct redistricting in 2021, following the completion of the 2020 Census.
When Oregon last conducted redistricting, the Oregon House of Representatives was split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Compromise legislative and congressional maps were hammered out after a lengthy process, ultimately passing by wide margins in both the House and Senate before being signed into law by then-Gov. John Kitzhaber.
The 2011 redistricting was the first time in decades that the Legislature was able to complete the process without court involvement.
Congressional districts in 2001 were ultimately drawn by a state court-appointed "special master," while the legislative map was produced by the office of then-Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, in accordance with state law.