Redistricting: When it comes to incumbents, GOP legislative map clearly a partisan hack job

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Let's stipulate right up front that redistricting is, by definition, an extraordinarily political process. No one is going to produce a map that disadvantages their own political party.

But within that framework, there are certainly shades of political hackery - from fair and even-handed maps that make partisan advantage a minor influence, to clear hack jobs that serve nothing more than the hopes and dreams of political operatives. (And trust me, as a political operative, we often dream of partisan hack job maps - more on that another day.)

As I've been studying the legislative redistricting proposals from the Rs and the Ds, one of the things I've examined is how the two maps treat incumbent legislators. Now, it's true that ORS 188.010 says this:

No district shall be drawn for the purpose of favoring any political party, incumbent legislator or other person.

But it's also true that one of the perennial complaints comes from legislators who get drawn into a district with another legislator (especially if their old district is left without an incumbent.) For example, ten years ago, Senator Jason Atkinson complained loudly about a district line that left him just outside his district:

"To draw me out of my district -- it's so ridiculously partisan, even the Democrats can't keep a straight face," said Atkinson, who would have to move out of his recently remodeled house to run for re-election in his new district. "It's just mean."

He ended up moving in order to seek re-election.

So, on this score, how do these two map proposals stack up?

The Republican legislative plan puts eight incumbents into districts with each other:

The Democratic legislative plan also puts eight incumbents into districts with each other:

Check that out. The Republican plan districts together eight Democrats, while the Democratic plan districts together two Democrats, one Republican and one Democrat, and four Republicans with each other.

Sometimes these conflicts are unavoidable, but it's crystal clear to me that the Republicans went out of their way to screw with Democratic legislators - while the Democratic plan is mostly fair. After all, it's hard to imagine that the Dems deliberately set out to give their caucus leader an opponent that's a sitting legislator. If they were trying to set up their leader for an easy race, well, that's certainly not the way to do it!

There's a lot to blog about on the legislative maps (which you can play with here). I'm hoping to get a chance to dig in to specific regions and other issues later this week. Feel free to use this post to discuss this topic and anything else you see in the legislative map proposals.

  • (Show?)

    Why wouldn't the D's deliberately put Hunt in the same district as Kennemer? They drew the district with a 14 point registration edge for Democrats. Seems like a pretty good way to pick up a couple of seats.

    The way this process has unfolded over the last 3 decades speaks volumes about why redistricting should be taken out of the hands of the legislature and the SOS and placed in the hands of a non-partisan commission.

    One thing to keep in mind with regard to legislators being drawn out of their districts...

    I am not sure if it is actually constitutional under the Oregon Constitution but, if I recall correctly, the 2009 legislature passed a bill that basically said that if a legislator gets drawn out of their district, they can keep running in their old district.

    • (Show?)

      I'm working on getting the data, Sal, but my understanding is that HD-40 went DOWN in Democratic registration.

      Furthermore, Hunt already holds the seat. Winning it again wouldn't be a pickup of any seats.

      • (Show?)

        Yup, according to the data that's been shared with me, under the Democratic plan, HD-40 would have a net gain of +7 in Republican registration - shifting it from a 15% Dem edge to an 8% Dem edge.

        HD-40 basically would lose a bunch of North Clackamas and Oak Grove, and add Oregon City and the exurban areas southwest along the river and southeast toward CCC.

        I don't know what the Rs are whining about. They've got their own incumbent legislator sitting pretty in a district that just got tougher for the Democratic caucus leader. You can't really ask for a better challenger - and a better situation.

        Keep in mind that Matt Wand just won in a district with a 15% Dem edge, and Shawn Lindsay and Katie Eyre Brewer both won in districts with roughly 8% Dem edge.

        They should WANT the Democratic HD-40 to become final. Kennemer would have a real shot. It would be a tough competitive seat, and Kennemer would have to actually work at it, of course -- which may be what all the whining is actually about.

        • (Show?)

          HD 40 was drawn with a 43-33 edge for D's. HD 39 (Kennemer's old district) was drawn with a 44-29 edge for D's.

          There has been no Democrat in at least 10 years who has overcome that large of a registration deficit, and in the last 10 years, only 3 Republicans have won in districts with similarly large Democratic advantages -- Karen Minnis, Frank Morse, and Matt Wand.

          Anyhow, I don't disagree that some of the Republican districts were poorly drawn for many of the same reasons we are discussing here, but let's not pretend that these two districts -- 39 and 40 -- were not drawn with the intention of picking up a couple of seats for the D's, because clearly, they are.

          • (Show?)

            Once again, Hunt is the incumbent in HD-40. It wouldn't be a pickup. And as you note, the Democratic plan makes it more Republican.

            • (Show?)

              So far as I can tell, what they did was slightly reduce the Democratic advantage in HD 40 (from 14 percent to 10 percent) and concede HD 51 in exchange for guaranteed pick ups of HD 39 and SD 20.

              • (Show?)

                Can you tell me where you're getting the 10% number from? The data I'm seeing is 7%. (And if it's the GOP data, they're using outdated numbers from summer 2010.)

                • (Show?)

                  I'm using the data the R's sent to the press. Doesn't change anything, really. The D's appear to be rigging HD 39, 40, and 51 for the purposes of picking up HD 39 and SD 20.

                  The R's do some similar tricks, most notably "cracking" Bend to protect HD 54.

                  What makes both proposals even worse is that they reduce the number of potentially competitive districts.

  • (Show?)

    One other point: This legislative session gave me reason for optimism that the process would be handled better than in the past. Reps Garrett and Lindsay, Bonamici & Telfair all have reputations for being practical, smart, and fair-minded.

    I am still hopeful that the finished product will be something that we can be proud of, but I can't help but think we'd be better off just handing the process over to a panel of retired judges.

    • (Show?)

      The question is: which retired judges? Who picks them? On what criteria?

      Governor Ted Kulongoski is a retired judge. Would he qualified to be on the panel? If we were talking Texas, would Senator John Cornyn be qualified?

      Do we really think all retired judges have some magical ability to be "impartial" (whatever the heck that means.) And if not, then how will we choose them? And if the ones we choose turn out to be partial, then how will we discipline them - since removing them from appointed or elected office isn't an option?

      I'd suggest that these retired judges would be picked on political grounds anyway, but as retired judges there's almost no way to discipline them - either by voters or regulators.

      Redistricting is inherently political, best to have elected officials doing it. At least they're subject to discipline by the voters.

      • (Show?)

        Why would a gerrymandered district of partisans "punish" a legislator for giving their side a greater advantage? The whole point of gerrymandering a legislative district is to make elected officials less subject to discipline by voters.

        In my experience, the party in power always hates the idea of non-partisan redistricting. But there is little doubt that a panel of retired judges would be far less subject to political pressure or other kinds of undue influence than any elected officeholder would be.

        That's not a criticism of our elected officials, but a simple acknowledgment that the stakes are high enough that some of the most powerful entities in Salem would be more than happy to end a person's career for putting basic fairness ahead of partisan advantage when it comes to redistricting. I've seen legislators similarly threatened for stakes that are far smaller.

        A panel of retired judges, selected at random, or even picked by the Governor with some reasonable safeguards would be preferable to having the legislature or SOS handle redistricting.

        • (Show?)

          Frankly, unless you can get buy in across the nation, I don't find it especially wise to be for changing the system. Does gerrymandering happen? Absolutely. But unless it stops everywhere, you're giving one side (Republicans--whose efforts in Texas and Florida are legendary) such an advantage that progressives are set up for a huge hole to crawl out.

          Btw, Mapes says that the GOP #s sent to the press should be treated with skepticism.

          • (Show?)

            I see. So your point is that because Republicans have disenfranchised voters by gerrymandering districts in Texas therefore its okay for Democrats to disenfranchise voters in Oregon?

            Sorry, Carla, but that's nonsense. It's not unlike people who defend torturing prisoners in American custody just because Al Qaeda does terrible things to people in their custody.

            If that's the consensus view of Democrats and Republicans, then it's no wonder that so many people are leaving the major parties.

            • (Show?)

              It would appear that your point is that its more important to disenfranchise progressives at the national level. That is the nonsense here.

              If you're going to demand that the redistricting process be this way, then do the work to make it happen nationwide. All you're doing here is simply making it so that progressives are in an even greater hole.

              I have no great devotion to any party. But I'm realistic enough to understand that what you're advocating for is just another way to buttonhole progressive policy.

              So please, spare me the "no wonder people are leaving the parties" speech. I really don't care about that. What I care about is progressive policy being passed and implemented. Your advocacy is a significant setback for that.

              • (Show?)

                That's a cop-out. Neither of us have any ability to influence what happens at the national level, and just because the Republicans act badly in Texas does not give the Democrats license to act badly in Oregon.

                Whether you like it or not, the hypocrisy that allows political partisans like yourself to trash the other side for behavior that you gleefully engage in is a driving force for the low opinion that a growing majority of Americans have for both major parties.

                Your view appears to be that if we could only elect enough Democrats, then everything would be hunky dory.

                My view is that there are no clear majorities in either major party for a raft of populist issues that have broad support among the general public.

                The only way to get consistent long-term movement for things like consumer protection and to level the playing field for small business owners and non-unionized workers is to create a broad coalition that can survive temporary shifts in power.

                Such a coalition can only happen by identifying people who are willing to work together and giving them reasonable assurances that they will be treated fairly regardless of whether they have a "D" or an "R" after their name on a ballot.

                • (Show?)

                  You're the one not willing to do the work but I'm the one copping out? That's quite a pretzel you've created for us all here, Sal. And speak for yourself. I've already done work that's had impact on national policy. I've also done work that's had impact on policy in other states. It's entirely possible when people work hard and have a good message. Try it sometime.

                  While your condescending commentary here may make you feel superior, it's little more than your own version of trash talk. You'll gleefully take your own personal shots and then stand back with feigned shock and dismay, pointing fingers. It's BS. Stop it.

                  You clearly have little understanding of my view on this because you're too busy looking for ways to promote your party. Let's just call it what it is. As I've repeatedly demonstrated, I've no special devotion to any party. What matters to me is policy. Republicans in general, especially their leaders, are so far off the cliff on rightwing policy now that they have no business holding a majority in government. You would hand it to them on a platter. No thanks.

                  The Republicans also have a long standing reputation for being inflexible and unwilling to seriously work across the aisle. There are random individuals among their group that prove the exception, but that's a blip in the overall scheme of things. The fact that you sincerely believe "identifying people who are willing to work together" regardless of their party affiliation is a working solution in the current climate is naive, at best. At worst, it's a calculated ploy to get a weary electorate to pay attention to your party. I find merit in neither.

                  • (Show?)

                    Carla - Interesting. So your point is that you have no particular allegiances to any party but also no interest in working with any party but Democrats. Internal consistency has never been a big part of your narrative.

                    I disagree that a fair approach to redistricting would "hand the reigns of power" over to anyone. The whole point of "fair" is to not create any undue advantage.

                    I don't feel superior to anyone, but neither will I apologize for encouraging both sides to work collaboratively on this or other issues, nor will I apologize for criticizing either side when they are going off the rails.

                    Also, with due respect, I will refrain from telling you how to spend your volunteer time. I know where I can have an impact, and it is not at the national level.

                    BTW, I'm fairly certain that I haven't mentioned my party once in any of these conversations about redistricting. The Independent Party has nothing in particular to gain by this, but our members clearly support a fair process.

                    • (Show?)

                      I didn't say I "have no interest in working with any part but Democrats." Please don't put words into my mouth. That's your inference and not my meaning. I would appreciate if you'd read my posts and comments for content, not inference. Then we won't have this issue in the future.

                      Your premise that your redistricting proposal is "fair" doesn't hold up on its face unless everyone does it. It simply gives those who don't participate an advantage. I'm not willing to do that.

                      If this really matters to you the way you claim, then you'll do it right and work for it everywhere, so that all sides (and not just "both"--there are many sides here) get a reasonable and equal playing field. That can't happen if it's not nationwide because of the very significant nationwide impact.

                      I also don't buy that the IP doesn't have something to gain. The faux attempts at independence seem quite obvious to me..and you're the main face of that party. It's not only a logical connection, it's obvious.

                      • (Show?)

                        No Carla, you just make it clear through your actions that you are uninterested in working with anyone but the most partisan of Democrats.

                        Why bother pretending otherwise when your entire body of work and clear hostility towards non-D's undermines the argument?

                        I mean, you don't really pretend to be fair-minded in your approach. What's the benefit to doing so now?

                        • (Show?)

                          So basically, you have no interest in actually being honest or accurate about my effort and what I do. You're just looking to throw stones. At least we're all clear on where you are, Sal.

                          I'm quite open and up front about my biases. I don't pretend to be "independent" or "Independent". Unlike yourself, I have absolutely no interest in promoting a party. I'm about policy. And you can bet that I have no interest in handing the country over to people whose policy positions are essentially opposite of good.

                          Frankly, I'm sorry that you do.

                          • (Show?)

                            I agree that you are motivated by issues and that you believe that the ends justify the means. I also believe that because of this, you act as though notions of basic fairness don't apply to those who disagree with you.

                            My motivation for getting involved in politics is not that people disagree with me on issues, but out of a sense of frustration that this disagreement has become what defines our political process and that for too many people, the end justifies the means.

                            Many folks -- yourself included -- behave as though you see yourselves as partisan advocates first, and citizens second.

                            I don't see things that way. I think that the most important thing we can do right now is to start re-knitting our social fabric, remind ourselves that the general public has more in common on a range of issues than is reflected in our political process.

                            I believe that rather than taking an eye for an eye that we should start building a coalition that cleaves across the current left-right dichotomy in service to a range of issues such as consumer protection for which there is a broad consensus among the general public, but for which there is no natural constituency in either major party.

                            That can't happen unless we first adhere to a set of principles that includes not rigging the rules of the game for partisan advantage.

                            I understand you don't understand or agree with my work. I can certainly live with that.

        • (Show?)

          I also am skeptical of "nonpartisan" committees. It isn't working so well on the FCC, the FEC or the Supreme Court.

    • (Show?)

      Lindsay is smart? he made the public accusation that the DPO hired me to track him in the Leg. i told him 3 different times that was untrue -- for the simple reason that it is untrue. (ORESTAR will show no payments to me from the DPO.)

      not to mention he's possibly the last R backbencher the DPO would track, maybe in a tie with Wally Hicks. he's far from smart or fair-minded in my book; calling me a liar with no proof is low and dumb.

      • (Show?)

        Personally, I think your video journalism thing is great. I wish more people could figure out a way to do that kind of thing.

        Having said that, paid or not, you are clearly a Democratic operative who seemed to be pointing a video camera at him during a legislative session, and you have a list of fairly prominent Democrats who are donating money to pay for that effort.

        I have no reason to doubt that you were really taping Gelser or whomever, but even if he is wrong, I don't think it's an unreasonable assumption to make.

        Also, strictly speaking, there are no "backbenchers" in the Oregon House. The house is tied, and Lindsay is a co-chair of one of the most important committees in this session. I think he's a smart and capable guy. I also think that Wally Hicks is a smart and capable guy.


  • (Show?)

    FYI, I've corrected my post. Dingfelder and Monroe are the two Senate Dems districted together in the GOP plan, not Dingfelder and Rosenbaum.

  • (Show?)

    Kari, So where does the process stand now? Who decides and what's the likely outcome?

    • (Show?)

      It's a legislative process. A bill has to come out of committee, move to the floor, and get agreed to by the House and Senate, and signed by the Governor.

      That presumably will require some negotiation. The House is split 30-30, and the Senate redistricting committee is split 3-3 (a magnanimous move by the majority Senate Dems, if I can say so.)

      If it doesn't, the congressional map will go to the courts, and the legislative map will go to the Secretary of State.

  • (Show?)

    With all due respect to George Orwell (Animal Farm),.........

    Republican partisan hack job --BAD!!

    Democrat poartisan hack job -- GOOD!!

    That pretty much encapuslates y'all's arguments.

  • (Show?)

    When we talk about representation, not only should we look at "communities of interest", natural and political boundaries, but also we shouldn't forget that, statewide, Democrats have 30% more registered voters than Republicans, and the end district results should reasonably reflect that.

  • (Show?)

    Kari, you spent an awful lot of energy trying to prove that your hacks are slightly less partisan than the Republican hacks.

    How did Secretaries of State Norma Paulus (a Republican) and Phil Keisling (a Democrat) both manage to pull off successful redistrictings that enjoyed bipartisan support? Is that Oregon lost forever?

    • (Show?)

      That is exactly my point. Phil Keisling was fair. He played it straight. I am sure there was some advantage given to D's, but it wasn't the blatant hack job of 2000. So far the D's 2010 proposal ignores physical and political boundaries, while maintaining the "community of partisan advantage interest" of 2000.

    • (Show?)


      Do both sides have partisan hacks? Of course. But the evidence that the GOP is absolutely over-the-top partisan in this particular case is obvious and clear.

      No, it's not equal. No, both sides are doing it to the same degree. Let's just be honest, please.

      • (Show?)

        Okay, if we're going to be honest,Carla, will you start by admitting that Bradbury gerrymandered the legislative districts to favor Democrats in 2001?

        • (Show?)

          Are you basing this on the fact that the GOP held the Oregon House through 2006 and tied it up again last year? And that they have more seats in the Oregon Senate, too?

          • (Show?)

            No, I'm basing it on the gymnastics he performed to slice off pieces of heavily Democratic urban areas to combine with rural areas to manufacture more winnable districts for Democrats throughout the state.

  • (Show?)

    Redistricting is a fascinating process. The political implications are so vast that it is unrealistic to expect politicians to ignore them. It seems to me that in Oregon we end up with something close to reasonable, as opposed to, say, Texas, where GOP hegemony and audacity are boundless.

    I'd like the discussion to begin with principles. The concept of communities of interest is valid to a point. If a minority population is split to assure that one of them will not win election, then gerrymandering has violated the interests of that community. In general, though, I believe drawing district lines to maximize competitive elections should be the prime directive, as long as minorities are not disenfranchised as a result.

    • (Show?)

      How would you deal with eastern oregon or multnomah county? I don't think there's a reasonable way of drawing districts that would create competitive races.

      That's why I favor non-partisan primaries, they allow for meaningful choices in the general even in regions heavily dominated by one party or another.

connect with blueoregon