If there is one thing that all Oregonians can agree on, it’s that our votes should count. But when politicians draw their own districts, they can rig the maps to keep themselves and their party in power.
The practice, known as gerrymandering, is as old as the Republic and has become dangerously precise in our data-driven digital age. Partisan mapmakers manipulate voting lines to protect their incumbents from challengers and keep their political party in power. Sometimes deals are negotiated with the opposing party, but party power still overrides community interests – leaving voters with little chance of meaningful competition or choice.
Today 17 states impose greater checks and balances on redistricting to prevent gerrymandering. Seven of those states, including our neighbors in California, Idaho and Washington, empower independent, citizen-led commissions to draw congressional maps. Here in Oregon, we put the foxes in charge of the henhouse. We can do better. We can ensure a community-driven process so that voters are choosing their politicians, instead of politicians choosing their voters.
That is why Common Cause Oregon, a nonpartisan government watchdog organization, is proud to join the People Not Politicians coalition. We urge our members and Oregonians statewide to support the 2020 ballot initiative to create an independent redistricting commission and end gerrymandering.
People Not Politicians
People Not Politicians is a statewide coalition of Oregonians and organizations concerned about good government. In November 2019, People Not Politicians filed a ballot initiative to change the way legislative and congressional districts are drawn by amending the state constitution. If approved by Oregon voters, the initiative would replace the current redistricting process controlled by partisan politicians with an independent citizen redistricting commission comprised of impartial Oregon voters.
We believe Oregon voters should choose their politicians—politicians should not get to choose their voters.
- Creates an independent commission to draw fair and impartial districts so that every vote matters.
- Provides a greater opportunity for under-represented communities like low-income Oregonians, persons of color, rural Oregonians and seniors to have a voice in their representation.
- Creates better geographic, economic, social, community and political diversity in drawing the district maps for our state legislators and congressional representatives.
How it works:
- The redistricting commission would consist of 12 Oregonians, vetted to rule out conflicts of interest and neutralize partisan power. The commission would include four Democrats, four Republicans, and four registered voters unaffiliated with either major party.
- The commission would draw congressional and state legislative district maps that keep communities together, not that favor an incumbent or political party.
- The commission’s work would take place in public, including 10 public hearings in every region of the state and all testimony and data received by the commission would be in the public record.
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. The proposed Oregon constitutional amendment should be on the November 3, 2020 general election ballot. If approved by the voters, the new redistricting process could be used immediately in the 2021 redistricting after the 2020 census.
This is important because Oregon may receive a sixth congressional member after the 2020 census. This additional seat will change the shape of our existing five congressional districts. It is always critical that we have a fair system in place so the map drawing is as fair as possible.
Consider the facts:
- Only twice since 1911 has the Oregon legislature passed a redistricting plan that became the final adopted plan. Oregon politicians have failed more often than not.
- Our neighbors in California, Washington and Idaho already have independent citizen redistricting commissions. A ballot question to create a bipartisan, independent commission is on the ballot in Nevada in 2020.
- Since 2012, over 96 percent of incumbent politicians were reelected in the districts they drew for themselves. The system today benefits those in power, letting politicians choose their own voters instead of the voters choosing them. We favor maps with fair districts that serve the interests of all the people and that allow fresh blood instead of protecting incumbent politicians.