SALEM, Ore. — An Oregon initiative petition aimed at creating a bipartisan redistricting process is one step closer to appearing on statewide ballots following a ruling in federal court and the blessing of Secretary of State Bev Clarno.
Initiative Petition 57, dubbed People Not Politicians, would amend the state constitution to create a redistricting commission consisting of equal representation from Democrats, Republicans, and other political perspectives — drawn from citizen applicants, not lawmakers.
"Major donors to political candidates or parties would not be eligible," supporters said in a statement. "Neither would elected officials, political party officials or their family members. Commissioners would be selected to represent the broad diversity of Oregonians."
The goal of the petition is to prevent the drawing of legislative districts along partisan lines, a process known as "gerrymandering" that has resulted in several high-profile court cases in other states.
With a growing population, Oregon is expected to see some changes to existing districts — possibly a new U.S. Congressional District — following results from the 2020 Census.
The chief petitioners of People Not Politicians filed suit in federal court in order to extend the deadline to gather signatures and reduce the minimum needed, citing the impacts of coronavirus precautions and restrictions.
Judge Michael McShane granted that relief, ordering Secretary of State Bev Clarno to either accept the signatures already gathered, or accept a reduced number of signatures and extend the deadline until August 17.
Clarno announced in a statement on Tuesday night that she would allow the petitioners to continue gathering signatures until the new deadline, declining to appeal the decision.
“As Oregon’s chief elections officer, I am deeply committed to expanding voter access and ensuring the integrity of Oregon’s elections,” said Secretary Clarno. “I and our Elections Division team will remain focused on the smooth administration of our election processes.”
The new threshold of verified signatures for IP 57 is 58,789, and supporters say they have already submitted more than 64,000 signatures.
"While we are confident in the validity of the signatures we submitted, we know there are tens of thousands of Oregon voters eager for their signature to count," said chief petitioner Norman Turrill. "We will continue to collect signatures to ensure Oregon voters have a chance to bring the redistricting reform we need to end gerrymandering in Oregon once and for all.”
Clarno's office underlined that the District Court ruling applies only to IP 57, and not to other initiatives without a separate court order. On Tuesday, supporters of a county-level initiative to join eastern and southern Oregon with the state of Idaho said that they had filed a similar federal suit for relief, citing the IP 57 decision as precedent.