What is redistricting?

Redistricting is the process of redrawing the lines that define political districts. For legislative and congressional districts, this typically occurs after the completion of the federal census every 10 years. Redistricting should change districts to more accurately reflect the changes in population and interests of constituents.

What is gerrymandering?

Gerrymandering is when elected or appointed officials in charge of redistricting reconfigure districts to favor a political party, incumbent, or candidate. Often the purpose of gerrymandering is to also create noncompetitive races or “safe districts” where districts are drawn to give one party or interest a clear advantage and secure incumbency. There are 3 common types of gerrymandering:

  • Partisan: Where parties who are in control of redrawing the districts, do so in a way that solidifies or even increases the number of seats of their party in the legislature or congress.
  • Bipartisan: Where typically both parties are equally represented in the decision-making process and negotiate or trade in order for each party to have safer districts to protect their respective interests or incumbents.
  • Racial: Refers to a process in which district lines are drawn to prevent racial minorities from electing their preferred candidates. Partisan gerrymandering is often a proxy for racial gerrymandering.

Is gerrymandering a problem in Oregon?

Only twice in the last hundred years has the Oregon legislature successfully completed redistricting without intervention by the secretary of state or the courts. For decades, the legislature failed to redistrict at all, so that the party in power could maintain its advantage, resulting in growing distortions in the ratio of voters-to-representatives from one legislative district to the next as population sizes shifted throughout the state.

Oregon law requires that district lines are not to be drawn for partisan advantage, so partisan data is not analyzed publicly. But in reality, legislators share this data behind closed doors, and are well aware of how various options will affect party advantage. Oregon needs to end the “wink and a nod” sharing of partisan data behind closed doors and make this information available for public scrutiny.

Why reform now?

With the coming census in 2020, we believe now is the best time to advocate for fair representation and for a process that lets voters hold their elected officials accountable by creating fair districts and put an end to partisan gerrymandering.

Another factor is that Oregon may receive a sixth congressional member after the 2020 census.  This will impact our existing five congressional districts. It is always important at these critical junctures to examine current processes to make sure that it is as fair as possible.

Recent Progress

In 2019, Common Cause Oregon helped launch the People Not Politicians ballot initiative to put the power to draw voting district lines in the hands of Oregonians not politicians. The necessary Oregon constitutional amendment goes on the November 3, 2020 general election ballot. If passed, the new process would be used immediately in the 2021 redistricting after the 2020 census.

In 2015, Common Cause and the Oregon Redistricting Matters Coalition passed legislation to increase transparency and public input in the state redistricting process. However, it will take voters amending the constitution to make this a fully transparent process and to end the inherent conflict of legislators drawing the lines for their own seats.


Next Campaign

People Not Politicians - Pass IP 57