Get thee to a redistricting hearing near you

Carla Axtman

It's that time again, folks: redistricting. Now that we know where Oregon's population has settled out over the previous 10 years since we last drew the lines, we get to draw them again. Thank you, ORS 188.010.

Basically, all the districts need to have roughly the same number of folks. In the last 10 years, the Bend area and Washington County have grown a bunch. Eastern Oregon has lost some population. The coast and most other places have remained about the same. This means that the lines in these places where the population has shifted will be changing, in some places perhaps significantly. The real question is how they'll change.

My own thinking around this really boils down the idea of "communities of interest". Basically, this means that the people in the district generally have common interests, needs, etc. This will usually mean that the districts are based on social and economic interests such as transportation, culture, or jobs, rather than county lines, for example. It makes sense to me to have representation that's based on these common areas of interest rather than geographical boundaries, although in some cases those aren't mutually exclusive.

In any case, there are a number of upcoming opportunities for the public to weigh in on redistricting. It might sound kind of boring at first, but if you want your community's values and passions represented at the various levels of government, this is where it begins:

Beaverton Friday, April 8, 9:00 - 12:00PM Portland Community College
Rock Creek Campus Auditorium, Building 3
17705 NW Springville Road Portland, OR 97229

Portland Friday, April 8, 2:00 – 5:00PM Portland State University
Chancellor's Boardroom 1800 SW Sixth Ave, Room 515 Portland, OR 97201

Gresham Saturday, April 9, 9:00 - 12:00PM Mt. Hood Community College Room 1710 26000 SE Stark St. Gresham, OR 97030

Oregon City Saturday, April 9, 3:00 – 6:00PM Clackamas Community College McLoughlin Auditorium
19600 Molalla Avenue Oregon City, OR 97045

Update: 9:00 a.m.: Janice Thompson has provided some more links that give additional information on redistricting. They're awesome. Check it out.

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    An Oregon redistricting primer and Common Cause Oregon's legislative testimony on communities of interest can be helpful reading.

    Get out there and testify. Redistricting is about who will represent Oregonians in Washington D.C. and Salem for the next ten years.

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      Those are GREAT links, Janice. I'm going to add them to the post.

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        Let me echo Carla's note. Folks should definitely take a minute to page through the second link - a short powerpoint presentation that graphically illustrates some of the vote dilution/packing tactics that arise.

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    When I chaired the Metro citizens' committee on redistricting ten years ago, one of the most interesting questions we wrestled with was this:

    Do major highways or boulevards serve as dividers between communities of interest? Or do they serve as the spine around which communities of interest are built?

    For example, in Southwest Portland, Burnside Avenue largely serves to divide the Pearl and the Alphabet District from Downtown. But conversely, in Southeast, Hawthorne Boulevard largely serves as the center of a robust community.

    In the Metro case, we had lots of testimony from folks who lived in the Gateway area that argued that I-205 and I-84 don't separate their community, but rather that the Gateway area is defined by its identity as the place where those two freeways intersect.

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      Two points. Is testimony (I've always wondered why they use a term that in a legal context implies given under oath) delivered live (as in -- at the hearing) given more weight (than written) by Legislative staff when they summarize or by Legislators when they decide?

      Where should written testimony be sent so it is included in the staff materials and when is the deadline?

      Questions, I guess, rather than points.

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        Written testimony can be sent to [email protected] An email to this address will go to both the House and Senate redistricting committees.

        The hearings wrap up on April 16th. I think that testimony submitted after that date would still be accepted but that is kind of an implicit deadline.

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    Common Cause Oregon is hosting a phone briefing tonight on communities of interest and redistricting. Keesha Gaskins, an expert from the Brennan Center for Justice will do a Q&A. It's free and open to anyone.

    Call in toll free, 1-800-391-1709, at 7:00pm pacific time tonight. Punch in 266361 when directed and you'll be on the call.

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    Other links: is a public domain software initiative to give citizens control over the redistricting process. I will post here if (when) we get Oregon data loaded and available. There are lots of good links from that website.

    "Gerrymandering: The Movie" is owned by the Reed College library. I don't think any user can view the DVD, but anyone with a university affiliation may be able to get this via ILL and schedule a public showing.

    The Portland City Club is currently running a study commission on the redistricting issue.

    We face some real challenges in drawing our lines in Oregon. Happy to have this debate here if you like, I know that Janice will weigh in as well.

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