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A delay in U.S. Census data prods lawmakers to seek extension of July 1 deadline.

State legislative districts on Portland's west and east sides, plus Central Oregon, will have to shrink in the next redrawing of boundary lines because their population growth exceeded the average in the past decade.

Members of the Senate Redistricting Committee also were told that federal census data, the basis for redrawing the district lines, will be released a month after the state constitutional deadline of July 1. Democratic and Republican committee leaders, plus their counterparts in the House, asked the Legislature's lawyers to seek an extension from the Oregon Supreme Court.

Their request went to the Legislature's presiding officers, House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, who responded in a statement issued Thursday, Feb. 4.

"As chairs of the Legislative Counsel Committee, we will explore all options to ensure the Legislature can fulfill its constitutional duty to rebalance the population of Oregon's electoral districts," they said.

After each 10-year census, lawmakers in Oregon have first shot at redrawing the lines for the 30 Senate districts and 60 House districts. Districts must be roughly equal in population — not voters — within a difference of 1% or less.

While districts based on the coast and most areas east of the Cascades will need to expand boundaries, districts based in Washington and Deschutes counties — plus a couple straddling Clackamas and Multnomah counties — will have to shrink because their populations have grown beyond average.

Specific Senate districts are 13, 15, 17, 26 and 27. Specific House districts are 26, 30, 33, 51, 53 and 54.

Readers can find their districts by going to oregonlegislature.gov, and looking for "Find Your District and Legislators" on the right-hand side.

Delayed census data

The committee heard Feb. 3 from Kathleen Styles, a U.S. Census Bureau official, and Charles Rynerson, state data coordinator at the Population Research Center at Portland State University.

Under a normal schedule after the 10-year census, states would receive census-block data used in redistricting by March 31. But because of delays from the coronavirus pandemic and other problems within the bureau during the waning days of the Trump administration, Styles said that data will be released around July 30.

"We will release the numbers as soon as it is feasible to do so," she said. "But the numbers have to be accurate. They have to be the best numbers that we can produce. We are on a track to be doing that, and we will give you a schedule as soon as we can."

The Senate committee plans to hear from the Legislature's lawyers about whether alternative sources of data can be used. But one of them advised members that census-block data has been used to redraw the maps.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which conducted a briefing for reporters on Feb. 3, Oregon is one of six states facing early deadlines for redrawing legislative districts, and one of 24 that must do it this year.

Under the Oregon Constitution, if legislators do not complete it by July 1, the task falls to the secretary of state. The Oregon Supreme Court is the ultimate authority over redistricting.

The constitutional deadline does not apply to redistricting of U.S. House seats, which Oregon expects to gain a sixth seat in the 2020 Census. If lawmakers ultimately fail to agree, the matter goes to the Oregon Supreme Court, which names a special panel to draw up a plan.

Filing for the May 2022 primary opens on Sept. 9.

Looking ahead

Rynerson said that, based on a rough 4.26 million estimate of Oregon's population — the PSU Center issues annual estimates as of July 1 — each of the six anticipated congressional districts will average 710,000 people. The U.S. Census state total, the one that is official, is as of April 1, 2020. It will be released by April 30.

He said all five current congressional districts will have to shrink.

The 1st District, which covers Portland west of the Willamette River, plus Washington County and three others, is the largest at 858,875 according to the 2019 American Community Survey conducted by the Census Bureau. The 3rd District, which covers most of Multnomah County and part of Clackamas County, was at 853,116, and the 5th District, which stretches from Clackamas County into the Mid-Willamette Valley and the central coast, was at 844,220.

For Oregon Senate districts, also based on a state population estimate of 4.26 million, Rynerson said the new average will be about 142,000, up from the 128,000 in the 2010 Census.

Senate districts now exceeding that average substantially are 13, which covers parts of Washington, Clackamas, Yamhill and Marion counties; 15, Washington County (Hillsboro and Forest Grove); 17, part of Beaverton, northeast Washington County and Northwest Portland; 26, Hood River County and parts of Multnomah and Clackamas counties, and 27, Deschutes County, including the city of Bend.

For Oregon House districts, the new average will be about 71,000, up from the 64,000 in the 2010 Census.

House districts now exceeding that average are 26, parts of Washington and Clackamas counties; 30, Washington County (Hillsboro); 33, northeast Washington County and Northwest Portland; 51, straddling Multnomah and Clackamas counties; 53, Deschutes County, and 54, Bend.

Rynerson said American Community Survey data indicates larger trends, but it is less accurate than 10-year Census data, particularly in redrawing legislative districts. The first relies on household surveys; the second is based on a count of all households.

Styles, speaking for the Census Bureau, said Oregon's overall response rate to the 2020 Census was 99.98%, between returned surveys (about 67%) and a follow-up count of households that did not respond initially.

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NOTE: Reposts to correct an error in what happens if state lawmakers fail to agree on a congressional redistricting plan. They changed state law since the 2011 redistricting.

Learn more

A link to presentations by U.S. Census Bureau and Population Research Center, Portland State University, at Senate Redistricting Committee:

https://olis.oregonlegislature.gov/liz/2021R1/Committees/SRED/2021-02-03-15-15/MeetingMaterials


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