State lawmakers are poised to meet Sept. 20 to finalize plans to reframe the state’s 90 legislative districts and six congressional districts, but the long-term ramifications are murky and how such a blueprint will help voters remains a mystery.
While legislators are scheduled to meet to find an agreement on the redistricting plan, there hasn’t been much vetting by voters on the concept. Whenever a redistricting plan is floated by elected leaders, voters need to be wary. They also need to be informed about precisely what the new plan will mean.
That, as far as we can tell, hasn’t happened.
Instead, lawmakers have plowed ahead with the plan and appear ready to use the COVID-19 pandemic to limit in-person testimony by voters. Instead, as with the last Legislative session, lawmakers will hold hearings on the matter virtually. House Speaker Tin Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney — both Democrats — made that decision last month. Gov. Kate Brown has urged lawmakers to move fast on approving new political maps for the state. If lawmakers can’t reach a compromise, then Democratic Secretary of State Shemia Fagan will be in control of framing the new legislative maps. After that a final panel of judge will be responsible for approving the final legislative map.
There are so many different elements to this entire saga that are wrong, it is hard to know where to start.
Redoing the legislative map is very serious business and deserves voter input. In fact, voter input is crucial. That’s because lawmakers can potentially draw legislative maps in a way that helps either themselves or their party. That means an essential piece of Democracy is shortchanged, and then voters must live with it. For secluded areas of Oregon — such as its eastern section — an in-depth redrawing of the state’s political representation map should be real cause for concern. Not concern over the overall concept — redrawing of political districts isn’t uncommon — but how the process is being rolled out.
Until voters have a better idea of what, exactly, is going on and until they can testify in person, the brakes need to be pushed on this idea.
Far more voters input is needed and lawmakers — especially those who represent the eastern side of the state — need to get out and hold town hall meetings to explain this process.
Redistricting isn’t some run-of-the-mill legislative piece of business. It has the capacity to impact voters right here at home and in ways that may not be in their best interests.