Redistricting: The GOP of Oregon and the long con

Carla Axtman

The GOP of Oregon may be on a protracted losing streak when it comes to winning office in Oregon, but they're apparently not afraid of using the playbook of their national counterparts. In other words, they're all good with simply making stuff up to try and get their way:

Jeff Mapes, The Oregonian:

When Democratic and Republican legislators released competing redistricting plans last week, the Republicans provided something extra: voter registration information on the proposed legislative and congressional districts.

The data helped evaluate how each of the plans affected the partisan balance in the various districts. But Democratic redistricting experts noticed that the GOP numbers didn't match the public voter registration data.

The Democrats are right...but there is a partial explanation.

Rep. Shawn Lindsay, R-Hillsboro, who co-chairs the House Redistricting Committee, said that the Republican data, obtained from a private vendor, simply excludes minor-party voters. So the percentages are based on just Republican, Democratic and non-affiliated voters in the state. As a result, the GOP figures inflate the percentage share that the two major parties hold in the state.

Even when I factor out minor-party registrants, the Republican numbers seem to be off by a point or two, at least compared to the latest voter registration figures from the secretary of state (which are for April).

Shawn Lindsay: a guy who's not afraid to go all Karl Rove on us.

In my view, Lindsay could care less about getting a fair and reasonable set of districts. And given that his party made him their House point person on redistricting, clearly they aren't either. Further, he's coupled with GOP Senator Chris Telfer, whose own reputation bumps up against unreasonable and mean. Put this all together with the fact that they're (likely deliberately) using a made up set of numbers, and it's all about nothing more than putting a wrench into the works.

So if the legislature can't settle this, it goes to Secretary of State Kate Brown (except Congressional districts, which would go directly to court). The GOP has spent the better part of the last several months publicly dithering about Brown. The logical set up is to scuttle the legislative process, force redistricting to Brown and then tar & feather her no matter what map she approves (unless its exactly like theirs). Brown becomes the person they'll point to as the ultimate evil.

Enter Kevin Mannix. After having his 2010 attempt at a redistricting measure fail to even make the ballot, this long con plays out just right for him. Mannix is already back for another bite at the redistricting ballot measure apple. The mess created by the Oregon GOP appears designed to give Mannix the juice to get enough signatures to make the ballot, no doubt with Kate Brown as the face of redistricting evil that must be defeated.

This isn't about whether there's a real need to change the current system. Nobody has genuinely demonstrated that there is. This is about the GOP of Oregon constantly losing and grasping at straws, rather than doing a serious gut check of the way they conduct campaigns and public policy. A simple look at the way Shawn Lindsay is trying to draw his own district is evidence of that:

"Oregonians in Northwest Portland and the Pearl District have far more in common than Oregonians in Hillsboro and Banks"?

Huh? Banks is a farm town and Hillsboro is a fast growing urban area. The only "common" they have is that they're both in Washington County. Give me a break. But by adding Banks to his district, Lindsay hopes to make the district more conservative. A cynical ploy.

And it doesn't hurt Kevin Mannix's gravy train either.

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    The Mannix proposal is another failure at redistricting reform, but you claim that nobody has demonstrated that the current process is flawed. All we can look at is how flawed the Bradbury districts were and that Brown has promised to execute the office like Bradbury and that she has not come out with so much as a process that we can even evaluate. If it is like Bradbury, we can expect everything to be published as lately as they think they can get away with.

    Look, we know this is a Democratic mouthpiece, but every once in a while it would make sense to promote a real solution rather than parrot a party line.

    Rather than argue for the status quo, are there any ideas to improve the process that you have? I promote many, but will not repeat them all here, but I do like establishing processes that leave as little open to partisan favoritism as possible. Right now we can expect a party stalwart Brown to draw maps, but rather than complain that whatever she does will appear partisan even if it is not, how about proposing a solution that doesn't put it all on one partisan official? Right, it is your partisan official.

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      How were the districts that Bradbury approved "flawed"? The Oregon House is tied right now and the GOP held the Oregon House for half of the decade. The Senate has more GOPers in it now, too.

      Like I said, nobody is demonstrating (with any real seriousness) that the process is flawed.

      Rather than argue against the status quo--make an actual cogent argument that we need change. And continuing the slams on Brown aren't helping your case. All the GOP people who've been working with her on ballot measure stuff that have spoken with me says she's eminently fair. Smearing her because it's the cool and popular thing to do in order to sell a bill of goods will get nowhere as far as I'm concerned.

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        The argument that either party would intentionally disrupt a process in which they have a degree of input in favor of one controlled exclusively by the other party for the purposes of criticizing an officeholder they can't realistically beat anyway is ludicrous to the point that I have to wonder how seriously you actually believe it.

        Regarding Bradbury's gerrymandered districts...

        One prime example is how his plan, which was drawn by a former executive director of the DPO, linked Brookings to Roseburg rather than Coos Bay, with which it had much stronger geographic, political, and community ties. The resulting plan narrowly drew Ken Messerle out of his Senate District and created an (at the time) relatively safe district being drawn for Democrats (+5000D) in District 5 in a district that had previously been split fairly evenly.

        This is not entirely unlike the Democratic gambit in Clackamas in this cycle where their initial plan draws Alan Olsen and Bill Kennemer out of their districts and creates relatively safe Democratic districts in both seats.

        (btw, I can post several additional examples of how the 2001 districts were gerrymandered if you really think it's necessary to further address your question.)

        And, yes, I am picking on the Democrats here, but only to point out that there really is a basic equivalence in the partisanship of each of these plans.

        Even when they have good people in place to make the decisions -- which is true on both sides here -- neither side can be trusted to be impartial when their own power is at stake, which is why I think it should be handled by a panel of retired judges instead of the legislature.

        Also, it is true that Republicans have generally fared better than they would have expected based on how the districts were redrawn in '01.

        Of course, as another example, few would have expected that Frank Morse would be able to overcome a Democratic voter registration edge to win his current Senate seat against an incumbent D or that he would be able to overcome a 14 percent Democratic edge to keep it.

        I agree with you that Kate Brown is a fair minded and reasonable person. Nevertheless, I hope that she is not forced to resolve the legislative redistricting. She will be in a position of choosing between basic fairness, which would open her up to the same kinds of criticism that partisan Democrats have levied against Phil Keisling, or she will choose to resolve this in a partisan manner, which will open her up to criticism from everyone else. Neither approach would bode well for her ability to win higher office down the road, which would be a shame, because she is one of our finest public servants, IMHO.

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          Sal: Are you seriously of the belief that the GOP don't play dirty in a process in which they have a stake? Congratulations on living in that cave for so long. Must be nice to have been shielded from reality for such an extended period of time.

          I have to wonder if you're actually capable of looking at the overall data and its impact, based on your comment above. The objective numbers definitively demonstrate that the districts drawn by Bradbury allowed the GOP to hold the Oregon House for half of this decade. Further, its now tied. Is it possible that the people who drew the maps thought they were giving Dems a big upper hand? Sure..anything is possible. But the real proof is in the outcome.

          Post whatever examples you like. I'm reasonably sure I can counter them with other examples that offset what you're saying. Whenever redistricting is implemented, some individuals get screwed, or at least they think they're being screwed. If we had a computer coldly generate districts with only population and communities of interest in mind, there would be some individuals who'd lose out. It's the nature of the beast.

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            Carla - Saying that someone is "playing dirty" is not the same as saying that they want to blow up a process in which they have input in favor of a process where they have no input. Respectfully, even you should see how weak that argument is.

            Regarding Bradbury's gerrymandered districts...

            If someone gives you a 1 minute head start to run a mile, and the person you are running against wins anyway, does that still mean that the race wasn't rigged in your favor?

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              In this case, "playing dirty" and "blowing up the process" are synonymous. And the GOP has no problem with it.

              And to answer your question, not necessarily. Especially if you run the race over and over and over again--and the guy you think actually had the head start consistently loses.

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    Shawn Lindsay also thought the DPO was paying me to track him. of 30 Rs in the House, he's the guy the Dems would put in their sites? he's got more problems than just being unable to follow the rules with redistricting.

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