Lawmakers get down to work on redistricting maps
As lawmakers prepare to redraw Oregon's legislative maps, 2020 Census data shows that several westside suburban districts will have to shrink — but several on the east side will have to grow — to meet the new population averages for the House and Senate.
Lawmakers on the House and Senate redistricting committees will unveil the first drafts of those maps — plus one for Oregon's U.S. House districts, including a new sixth seat — on Sept. 3. Alternative maps from outside groups and the public are due at 5 p.m. Sept. 7, the day after Labor Day.
State and federal laws require the redrawing of districts after each census to account for population shifts and ensure that populations are equal. In Oregon, which grew by 10.6% during the past decade, urban counties gained more people than rural counties.
Counties whose rates exceeded the statewide average were three in Central Oregon — Deschutes at 25.7%, Crook at 17.9%, Jefferson at 12.8% — and the three Portland metro counties with Washington at 13.3%, Clackamas at 12.1% and Multnomah at 10.9%. The others were Polk County (adjacent to Salem) at 16%, Benton County (Corvallis) at 11.6% and Clatsop County (Astoria) at 10.9%.
Long-delayed census block data, the most precise information available for drawing new maps, was released by the federal government on Aug. 12. Legislative staff plan to convert some of the data into an easier-to-comprehend format.
Public hearings are scheduled Sept. 8-13. Although lawmakers had planned to hear all testimony in person across the state, the current COVID-19 coronavirus surge may force them to conduct hybrid or all-virtual hearings. (See box for details)
Lawmakers face a hard deadline of Sept. 27 for completion of the maps, set by the Oregon Supreme Court and supplemental legislation. They plan a special session the week of Sept. 20-24, when they are scheduled to be at the Capitol in Salem for legislative meetings.
If they do not meet that deadline, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan takes over legislative redistricting and a special panel of five retired judges named by the court will oversee congressional redistricting. The court is the final arbiter of both plans, and may consider alternative maps drawn by others. (The justices generally do not draw the lines themselves.)
A presentation Wednesday, Aug. 18, by the Legislative Policy and Research Office confirmed what lawmakers were told during the 2021 regular session, based on 2020 estimates by the Population Research Center at Portland State University.
Population growth during the past decade, chiefly in western Washington County and Deschutes County, will require some legislative districts to shrink. It also will require some adjustments elsewhere in the Portland metro area, where some districts will have to grow and others shrink.
Based on the 2020 Census, the new average population for each of the 30 Oregon Senate districts is 141,242, and for each of the 60 Oregon House districts, 70,621. Under state law, a Senate district consists of two House districts whose boundaries must coincide with the Senate district.
Dan Gilbert, a senior deputy legislative counsel, advised committee members that some deviations of up to 10% between legislative districts is permitted, although legal justification has to be provided. The range of deviation for House and Senate districts in the 2011 redistricting — the first by the Legislature in a century that did not require intervention by the secretary of state or the Supreme Court — was about 3 percentage points.
Oregon law lays out eight standards lawmakers must follow in redrawing districts, though Gilbert said the courts have allowed them leeway in previous plans as to how they do it.
Members will continue serving their current districts until Jan. 9, 2023, when legislators elected in the 2022 general election will take their seats. But all 60 representatives and 15 of the 30 senators up in 2022 will have to run in the newly-drawn districts. The other 15 senators, whose terms end in 2024, will be assigned to districts; they cannot lose their seats mid-term.
The Supreme Court has set Feb. 8 as the final deadline for adoption of legislative and congressional plans. The same date will apply to legislators to establish residency for their 2022 candidacies, an exception to the normal one-year requirement.
For Senate districts, five of the 30 each grew by 7,500 or more people and their boundaries will have to be redrawn.
Three of those districts take in parts of Washington County, where the overall growth rate was 13.3% over the past decade. They are District 13, represented by Republican Kim Thatcher of Keizer; District 15, Democrat Chuck Riley of Hillsboro; and District 17, Democrat Elizabeth Steiner Hayward of Portland/Beaverton. All are up for election in 2022.
The other Senate districts exceeding the new average by more than 7,500 are District 10 in South Salem and District 27 in Bend, which now has 163,025 people, more than 20,000 above the average.
District 26, which covers all of Hood River County and parts of eastern Multnomah and Clackamas counties, also has to shrink although its growth was between 3,000 and 7,500 above the average. The Republican incumbent is Chuck Thomsen of Hood River, whose seat is up in 2022.
Four metro area Senate districts each fell between 3,000 and 7,500 short of the new statewide average and will have to add people. They are District 14, represented by Kate Lieber of Portland; District 23, Democrat Michael Dembrow of Portland; District 24, Democrat Kayse Jama of Portland; and District 25, Democrat Chris Gorsek of Troutdale. Only Jama among this group is up for election in 2022; he was appointed to the seat vacated by Shemia Fagan when she was elected secretary of state.
For House districts, the pattern is similar.
District 33, which covers Bethany in Washington County and Northwest Portland, is now Oregon's most populous with 82,231, well above the statewide average. It is represented by Democrat Maxine Dexter of Portland. Just behind is District 53, which covers Deschutes County outside Bend, with 82,042 people.
Six other metro area House districts will have to shrink because of population growth.
In Washington County, they are District 26, represented by Democrat Courtney Neron of Wilsonville, and District 30, Democrat Janeen Sollman of Hillsboro. Each grew by more than 5,000.
The others are District 31, which includes Columbia County and straddles Washington and Multnomah counties, Democrat Brad Witt of Clatskanie; District 36, Democrat Lisa Reynolds of Portland; District 43, Democrat Tawna Sanchez of Portland, and District 51, which straddles Multnomah and Clackamas counties, Democrat Janelle Bynum of Clackamas.
Five other metro area districts each are short between 2,500 and 5,000 people and must expand. They are District 27, represented by Democrat Sheri Schouten of Beaverton; District 45, Democrat Barbara Smith Warner of Portland; District 47, Democrat Andrea Valderrama of Portland; District 49, Democrat Zach Hudson of Troutdale, and District 50, Democrat Ricki Ruiz of Gresham.
Oregon gained a sixth U.S. seat in the 2020 Census, so redrawing the map of congressional districts will be more complicated than in the recent past. The state gained a fifth seat after the 1980 Census, but there was little controversy about where that district was carved out — in the Mid-Willamette Valley — and lawmakers passed that plan without a legal challenge.
Each of the new districts has to come as close to the average of 706,209 under the census. After the 2010 Census, the population differences among the five districts under the new plan boiled down to just one person.
Gilbert, the senior deputy legislative counsel, said courts interpret "equal population" more strictly for congressional districts than for state legislative districts.
Under that standard, while all the current districts exceed the new average, District 1 represented by Democrat Suzanne Bonamici of Beaverton is 157,843 above the average — the largest gap — and District 4 represented by Peter DeFazio of Springfield is the smallest gainer with 117,399 above the average.
Unlike state legislators, U.S. representatives technically do not have to be residents of their district, only the state — but virtually all of them maintain residency in their districts.
The three metro area members of the U.S. House are Bonamici, who won a 2012 special election; Democrat Earl Blumenauer of Portland, who won a 1996 special election for District 3; and Democrat Kurt Schrader of Canby, elected in District 5 in 2008.
NOTE: Revises with virtual hearings schedule for Sept 8-13, given the rising number of COVID-19 infections in Oregon.
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.
Testimony and proposed maps also can be submitted online. Draft maps for consideration will be unveiled by the committees on Sept. 3.
Check this link: https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/citizen_engagement/Pages/How-to-Testify.aspx
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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