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OR Redistricting Maps Face Multiple Court Challenges


Monday, November 8, 2021   

PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregon lawmakers may have finished redistricting, but legal challenges abound for the maps they've drawn, both at the congressional and state level.

At the congressional level, where Oregon added one seat for a total of six in the U.S. House, Republicans accuse the approved plan of being "a clear, egregious partisan gerrymander."

Norman Turrill, Action Committee governance coordinator with the League of Women Voters of Oregon, said the state's redistricting rules have a set of criteria, such as using geographic barriers and not dividing communities of common interest.

But he predicted it'll be tough to overturn maps based on these.

"The criteria only say that they have to be considered, except for equal population," said Turrill. "And the Supreme Court has previously said that it's enough that they have considered all the criteria, not necessarily followed any particular criteria."

A panel of judges has until November 24 to make a final decision in the case.

At the legislative level, Lane County residents have filed a lawsuit in the Oregon Supreme Court, with support from a Democratic legislator in the area. But Turrill said he believes that suit faces some of the same barriers to success as the congressional challenge.

Another lawsuit filed at the end of October challenges, in part, the fact that hearings on legislative maps focused only on plans submitted by Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

Turrill, who is also chair of the group People Not Politicians, supports a constitutional amendment that could change this.

Supporters are collecting signatures for an initiative to create a redistricting commission made up of citizens rather than legislators. Turrill said he believes citizens would do a better job.

"The voters actually lose when the Legislature gerrymanders the districts, because the districts tend to be uncompetitive," said Turrill. "And when they're uncompetitive, the voters can't change their representation and hold their elected officials accountable."

A handful of states have redistricting commissions made up of members who aren't politicians. In 2008, California voters approved a measure that created an independent commission comprised of 14 citizens.

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