Democratic and Republican lawmakers have unveiled contrasting visions for Oregon's congressional and legislative districts in the next decade, as seen in newly released draft maps.
The redistricting committees met jointly for 40 minutes on Friday, Sept. 3, to present maps that will be the focus of virtual public hearings starting Wednesday, Sept. 8. Alternative plans must be submitted by the close of business Sept. 8; they will be posted on the Oregon Legislature's website if they comply with redistricting standards set out by law.
"I know it's not on the top of Oregonians' agenda to do redistricting on Labor Day weekend," Sen. Tim Knopp of Bend, the top Republican on the Senate panel, said. But because of tight timelines — lawmakers face a Sept. 27 deadline — Knopp said he hoped the issue would get some public attention.
After each federal census, legislative and congressional district lines must be redrawn to reflect population shifts and the political power resulting from those shifts. Oregon's growth during the past decade was uneven, with Washington County and Central Oregon above average and much of Southern and Eastern Oregon, except for the Rogue Valley, below average.
Based on competing maps that the parties submitted for the congressional districts — Oregon gained a U.S. House seat for the first time in 40 years — each major party seeks to carve out an advantage for the 2022 election and beyond. That's despite a redistricting standard that says no district shall be drawn for partisan advantage.
According to the nonpartisan website fivethirtyeight.com, both parties' plans give clear registration advantages to Democrats in the 1st and 3rd districts and to Republicans in the 2nd District, as they are now. The Democratic map makes the other three districts competitive, but favoring Democrats; the Republican map gives the GOP more competitive hopes in those districts.
The Democratic map gives Democrats a shot at five of Oregon's six seats, one more than they have now. The Republican map gives Republicans a shot at four of the six seats, three more than they have now.
Oregon's current five U.S. House districts are divided between four Democrats and one Republican. The 1st, represented by Democrat Suzanne Bonamici of Beaverton, is 157,843 above the new average. The 4th, represented by Democrat Peter DeFazio of Springfield, has the smallest gap with 117,399 above the average.
The sixth seat
For each of Oregon's six congressional districts, its population must be within five people of the new average of 706,209. Courts are stricter about what constitutes equal population for congressional districts than for legislative districts.
Changes proposed in the Democratic and Republican congressional plans to accommodate a sixth U.S. House district:
• District 1 (northwest): Democratic plan adds Tillamook County, deletes Yamhill County, and splits Washington County. Republican plan leaves Washington County intact and Portland west of the Willamette River, but moves Clatsop, Columbia and Yamhill counties into another district.
• District 2 (east and south): Democratic plan splits off part of Deschutes County, plus Hood River, Wasco and Jefferson counties into another district, and adds all of Josephine County and part of Douglas County. Republican plan keeps Central Oregon, but excludes all of Josephine County (Grants Pass is already in the 2nd) and part of the valley portion of Jackson County.
• District 3 (Portland): Democratic plan extends it from Multnomah and Clackamas counties into Hood River, Wasco, Jefferson and Deschutes counties. Republican plan confines it to Multnomah County, except for Portland west of the Willamette.
• District 4 (southwest): Democratic plan removes Josephine County, Linn County and part of Douglas County, and adds Lincoln County. Republican plan splits Lane County, and extends into all of Josephine County and part of Jackson County; the western half of Lane County, Benton County and Linn County would be in another district. Coos and Curry counties remain untouched in both plans.
• District 5 (valley): Democratic plan includes most of Clackamas and Marion counties, and extends into Linn County, but remove Lincoln County. Republican plan fashions most of Clackamas and Marion counties into a new District 6.
• District 6 (new): Democratic plan includes Polk and Yamhill counties, plus parts of Washington and Marion counties. Republican plan fashions a new District 5: Benton, Linn, Polk and Yamhill counties in the valley; Lincoln, Tillamook and Clatsop counties on the coast, plus western Lane County; also Columbia County and part of Marion County outside Salem.
Redrawing maps for the U.S. Congress is a different process than redrawing them for the Oregon Legislature.
For each of the 30 Oregon Senate districts, up to 10% deviation is permitted from the average of 141,242, and the same is true for each of the 60 Oregon House districts with an average of 70,621. Two House districts must be nestled within one Senate district. Sen. Kathleen Taylor, a Democrat from Milwaukie who leads the Senate redistricting panel, said the Democratic plan proposes only a 1% differential for legislative districts.
In general, several districts based in Washington County have to shrink because of disproportionate population growth, while rural districts throughout much of Oregon have to expand boundaries to take in more people.
The redistricting process started late because of the delay by the U.S. Census Bureau in releasing census-block data, considered to be the most precise in drawing maps. The bureau released data on Aug. 12.
Lawmakers, under a timetable set last spring by the Oregon Supreme Court, have until Sept. 27 to approve their own congressional and legislative district maps and have Gov. Kate Brown sign them.
A special session is planned the week of Sept. 20 to 24.
If lawmakers miss the deadline, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan takes over legislative redistricting and a special panel named by the Supreme Court will oversee congressional redistricting. They also have deadlines; the court is the final arbiter of both plans.
The final deadline is Feb. 8, one month before the March 8 filing deadline for the May 17, 2022, primary, although the Supreme Court can approve plans earlier.
Ten years ago, lawmakers were able to agree on congressional and legislative redistricting plans — the House was tied 30-30, the Senate a 16-14 Democratic majority — and the plans did not face court challenges. It was the first time since 1911 for legislative redistricting, and 1981 for congressional redistricting.
NOTE: Story revised to offer more specifics about differences between Democratic and Republican plans for congressional districts. Adds material from fivethirtyeight.com website.
Link to maps for congressional and legislative redistricting.
Please note: For Congress, Plan A is by Democrats, Plan B, Republicans. For the Senate and House, Plan A is by Senate Democrats, Plan B by Republicans, Plan C by House Democrats.
Oregon legislative leaders have announced a revised schedule for virtual public hearings about proposed legislative and congressional redistricting maps. Senate and House redistricting committees have scrapped plans for a series of in-person hearings around Oregon because of the rising number of COVID-19 infections.
Testimony and proposed maps also can be submitted online. Draft maps for consideration were unveiled by the committees on Sept. 3.
There is a finder feature on the legislative website for people to check their congressional district.
Wednesday, Sept. 8: 8-11 a.m., Congressional District 1; 1-4 p.m., Congressional District 2; 5:30-8:30 p.m., Congressional District 3.
Thursday, Sept 9: 8-11 a.m., Congressional District 4; 1-4 p.m., Congressional District 5; 5:30-8:30 p.m., Congressional District 1.
Friday, Sept. 10: 8-11 a.m., Congressional District 2; 1-4 p.m., Congressional District 3; 5:30-8:30 p.m., Congressional District 4.
Monday, Sept. 13: 8-11 a.m., Congressional District 5; 1-4 p.m. and 5:30-8:30 p.m., all testimony (statewide).
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