Oregon political maps are settled. What's next?
Oregon's congressional and legislative districts have been settled for 2022, after a Nov. 29 deadline passed without a further appeal of the congressional redistricting plan to the Oregon Supreme Court.
A special panel of five retired judges named by Chief Justice Martha Walters upheld the plan against a challenge on Nov. 24, and its opinion strongly indicated that an appeal would likely fail in the high court.
The Supreme Court, in an opinion released on Nov. 22, rejected two challenges to the legislative redistricting plan. The court was the final arbiter of both plans.
After Democratic majorities pushed through both plans at a special legislative session Sept. 27, Republicans went to court to challenge the process and the results. A second suit against the legislative plan was filed by Springfield residents against how the area around the University of Oregon was redrawn; they alleged that the plan was aimed at a sitting Democratic lawmaker.
With all of the cases settled, the boundaries of Oregon's six U.S. House seats, 30 state Senate seats and 60 state House seats will take effect Jan. 1.
Candidates hoping to run for any of those positions in 2022 will have to establish residency within the new districts to win election. The filing deadline for the May 17 primary is March 8; the general election is Nov. 8.
Secretary of State Shemia Fagan has begun accepting filings for statewide and judicial offices — including the U.S. Senate — but not for U.S. House or state legislative seats.
Technically, U.S. representatives do not have to live in the districts they represent, only their states. But most do establish legal residency.
All 60 state representatives are up for election every two years. Only half of the 30 senators are usually up every two years. The Oregon Constitution sets residency requirements for them.
In addition to the 15 senators up for full four-year terms, one seat up in 2022 is for the two years remaining after Democrat Ginny Burdick of Portland resigned Nov. 1. She had been elected to a seventh term in 2020 from District 18, which has since been redrawn wholly within Washington County, where voters will elect someone in 2022. Akasha Lawrence Spence of Portland, who served for about a year as an appointee in the Oregon House, was appointed to fill 13 months in the Oregon Senate until the 2023 legislative session starts — but she is not a candidate for election to that seat.
Meanwhile, if an initiative qualifies and Oregon voters pass it in the 2022 general election, a new commission — instead of the Legislature — will be empowered to redraw the maps just adopted and settled.
A coalition known as People Not Politicians seeks to establish an indepdenent commission to redraw the political maps, rather than partisan legislators. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states have commissions for congressional redistricting and 27 for legislative redistricting. Their scope varies from primary responsibility for new maps to advisory-only or a backup if lawmakers fail to approve maps.
An amendment is needed because the legislative redistricting process is specified in the Oregon Constitution.
"The judicial branch has shown that the check-and-balance system that might have reined in the Oregon Legislature's 2021 partisan gerrymanders cannot be relied on with existing redistricting standards and processes,'' Norman Turrill of Portland, chair of People Not Politicians, said in a statement on Monday, Nov. 29. "Oregon voters should choose their politicians, not the other way around. The way to change that is by passing Initiative Petition 34, which is progressing steadily towards the November 2022 general election ballot."
People Not Politicians sought to qualify a similar measure for the 2020 ballot, but failed. It went to the federal courts to seek a lower threshold than the 149,360 signatures required to qualify a proposed constitutional amendment for a statewide election. But the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sent it back to district court — and too late for either measure to qualify for the ballot.
The Oregon advocates argued that the coronavirus pandemic undercut their ability to gather signatures, but two other initiative measures did qualify for the 2020 ballot.
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