Oregon’s 6th Congressional District, newly created earlier this year.
By JULIA SHUMWAY
From the chronicle of the capital of Oregon
Oregon’s new legislative limits are set for the next 10 years after the Oregon Supreme Court on Monday rejected two challenges to maps approved by Legislative Democrats.
The Supreme Court ruling means Democrats stand a good chance of maintaining their qualified majority in both the House and Senate. Princeton analysts looking at each state’s redistribution data predicted that the new districts would give Democrats 39 of 60 seats in the State House and 20 of 30 in the State Senate. They currently hold 37 in the House and 17 in the Senate, after State Senator Betsy Johnson left the Democratic Party to run for governor as an Independent.
A lawsuit called on the court to dismiss the new districts from the legislature and replace them with one drawn by a Republican political strategist to maximize competitiveness. Princeton’s analysis suggests that only seven districts – four in the House and three in the Senate – offer an equal chance for candidates from either party to win.
Among them is the Republican-leaning House District 12, which encompasses a large rural area east of Eugene. The district also reclaimed Eugene’s polling station from Democratic Representative Marty Wilde, and a second lawsuit filed by two Tory Lane County men asked the court to redraw the line between the 8 and 12 House Districts for put Wilde and his neighbors back with the others. from the south-east of Eugene.
Wilde, who serves in the Oregon National Guard, could not comment on Monday because he is on military duty and prohibited from discussing politics.
A separate legal challenge to the new congressional boundaries is pending and a panel of five retired judges is due to render its decision by Wednesday.
The Supreme Court combined the two lawsuits into one and based its near-unanimous decision on legal briefs without allowing pleadings. Chief Justice Martha Walters did not attend.
Judge Chris Garrett, who led the latest state redistribution as a Democratic member of the State House in 2011, wrote the 26-page opinion.
“In considering a redistribution plan passed by the Legislature, this tribunal will not substitute its own judgment on the wisdom of the plan,” Garrett wrote.
Instead, Garrett wrote, judges could only have ruled against the Legislature if the plaintiffs were able to prove that the Legislature did not consider redistributing the criteria set out in state law, or ” after considering them all, makes a choice or choices that no [reapportioning body] already done.
In addition to requiring the Legislature or Secretary of State to consider factors including transportation links and existing geographic or political boundaries, state law requires the Legislature to hold at least 10 public hearings throughout state before proposing new borders and hold at least five after proposing a new plan but before voting on it.
The Legislature, which hosted committee hearings remotely for most of the year, did neither. It took no public testimony between the introduction and the vote on the final cards. However, the legislature exempted itself from the existing law by a legal clause in this year’s redistribution plan.
Kevin Mannix, the former Republican state representative and chairman of Common Sense for Oregon who laid down the broad challenge to the new districts, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the court’s decision.
“Those of us in politics recognize this is a manipulated plan,” he said in a statement. âUnfortunately, that is to be expected when politicians draw their own district boundaries. “
In response to the lawsuit asking the court to move the boundaries of two districts in Eugene’s area, Garrett wrote that the legislature appeared to have followed all relevant laws, although critics of the plan would have drawn those districts differently.
âIn the end, all that the petitioners’ arguments have shown is that other possible configurations of the two neighborhoods might have been preferable to some observers,â he wrote. “But that’s not the standard by which this tribunal assesses a challenge.”
Senate Democrats, who led the redistribution efforts, applauded the court’s decision.
“I am pleased that the Oregon Supreme Court has found that the Legislature’s redistribution cards meet all legal standards,” said Senator Kathleen Taylor, the Portland Democrat who chaired the redistribution committee from the room. âThe Senate Redistribution Committee has worked tirelessly to gather input from Oregonians across the state and use the 2020 census data to create Fair Trade Districts, all within an incredibly tight time frame. The Legislative Assembly has once again succeeded in fulfilling its constitutional duty to redistribute.
Candidates for the State House and Senate still cannot apply until January 1, although they are free to start campaigning and accepting donations at any time.
There is still a chance, however slim, that the cards confirmed by the Supreme Court will only last for one election. The People Not Politicians group is seeking to put an initiative on the 2022 poll to create an independent redistribution commission. If approved by voters, the initiative would require another round of redistribution before the 2024 election.
The group is now waiting for Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to certify their voting credentials, after which they can begin collecting signatures. About 150,000 Oregonians – 8% of the total vote for governor in 2018 – are expected to sign petitions for the proposed constitutional amendment by July 8, 2022 in order to vote.