Push to remove redistricting from Oregon Legislature inspires ballot initiatives

Oregon voters may be asked next year to take the redrawing of congressional and legislative boundaries out of the hands of elected politicians.

Posted: Nov 13, 2019 11:35 AM
Updated: Nov 13, 2019 3:44 PM

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon voters may be asked next year to take the redrawing of congressional and legislative boundaries out of the hands of elected politicians.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports a coalition that includes a variety of political and government watchdog groups on Tuesday said they are filing three proposed initiatives that would create a nonpartisan citizens panel to handle redistricting for congressional and legislative seats in Oregon following the 2020 census.

Norman Turrill, an Oregon League of Women Voters official and a chief sponsor of the measures, said that legislators shouldn’t control a process that can play an important role in determining who wins elections.

“The Legislature has a conflict of interest in the process,” Turrill said, “and they would be tempted to bias the results to favor one party or another.”

In addition to the League of Women Voters, the coalition backing the bill includes Common Cause of Oregon, OSPIRG, the Independent Party of Oregon, the Oregon Progressive Party, the Oregon Farm Bureau and the Taxpayer Association of Oregon.

However, the coalition could run into opposition from groups aligned with the Democratic legislative majority, which now controls redistricting in Oregon.

One warning signal came from Our Oregon, a Portland-based group that coordinates political activity among labor unions, social justice groups, environmentalists and other left-of-center organizations.

Becca Uherbelau, Our Oregon’s executive director, said she was concerned that the proposed 12-member citizens commission would be less accountable to voters and not reflect the concerns of the most under-represented voters.

“Right now,” she said, “it looks like a cookie-cutter solution in search of a problem.”

The proposed measure follows the basic approach adopted by California voters in 2010. The Oregon proposal calls for the commission to be equally divided among registered Democrats, Republicans and those who don’t belong to either of those parties. A panel of three state administrative law judges would winnow down a list of applicants to include a pool of 150 people. Out of that pool, six commissioners would be randomly selected — and those six would in turn choose the remaining six from the judge-selected applicants.

The measure also would prohibit major elected officials and their aides, political party officials, major political donors and lobbyists from serving on the commission.

Turrill argued that this is a better approach than was adopted in the state of Washington, which created its redistricting commission in the 1980s. In Washington, the members of the commission are chosen by legislative leaders of both parties. Turrill called it a “bipartisan gerrymandering commission” that sets up a system of horse-trading between the Democratic and Republican parties.

“I think the people who oppose this (Oregon measure) are people who benefit from the current process,” he said.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 3949

Reported Deaths: 148
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah104558
Marion90925
Washington69517
Clackamas29410
Deschutes1200
Linn1159
Umatilla1123
Polk9610
Lane672
Yamhill657
Jackson600
Benton555
Clatsop450
Klamath410
Coos310
Malheur280
Josephine261
Douglas250
Jefferson240
Wasco181
Columbia160
Hood River120
Morrow120
Lincoln90
Tillamook60
Curry60
Union60
Crook50
Wallowa20
Sherman10
Grant10
Harney10
Baker10
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 96400

Reported Deaths: 3769
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles460232116
Riverside7004292
San Diego6701249
Orange5469133
San Bernardino4365176
Alameda287493
Santa Clara2652139
San Francisco238640
Kern187129
San Mateo183376
Tulare164175
Santa Barbara155112
Fresno148222
Contra Costa133637
Sacramento130256
Imperial127423
Ventura91230
San Joaquin75233
Kings6472
Stanislaus64628
Sonoma5004
Solano45520
Monterey4138
Marin40314
Merced2616
San Luis Obispo2591
Santa Cruz2002
Yolo19422
Placer1859
Napa1013
Humboldt932
Madera842
El Dorado780
San Benito722
Nevada411
Sutter402
Del Norte370
Shasta364
Butte340
Mono341
Yuba281
Mendocino210
Inyo191
Mariposa151
Calaveras130
Lake120
Glenn120
Amador100
Siskiyou61
Colusa50
Lassen40
Plumas40
Tuolumne30
Tehama31
Alpine20
Trinity10
Sierra10
Unassigned00
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