Common Cause Oregon Recommends Nine Improvements for Future Redistricting

For immediate release: February 9, 2012

For more information contact: Janice Thompson, 503-283-1922

Common Cause Oregon Recommends Nine Improvements for Future Redistricting

Common Cause Oregon releases an analysis of the 2011 redistricting in our state that includes nine recommendations for improvements applicable regardless of “who” draws new district lines. The report, Oregon’s 2011 Redistricting: Successes, Concerns, and Recommended Improvement, is available here. (live link.)

“Oregon’s redistricting criteria are among the best in the country and the 2011 Legislative Assembly is to be commended for reaching bipartisan agreement on new legislative and congressional maps,” says Janice Thompson, executive director of Common Cause Oregon. “Nevertheless, good rules and a good process can be improved and it is in that spirit that we release our report identifying improvements for future drawing of new district lines.” Download the report.

Ending the “wink and a nod” practice of political players paying for partisan analysis of draft districts that are shared with legislators behind closed doors is Common Cause Oregon’s priority recommendation. Background and solutions are offered for future redistricting on pages 8 through 11 in the report (pages 10-13 of PDF).

Codify into law a requirement to hold at least 10 field hearings. Field hearings are a positive feature of Oregon redistricting history, but are not required by law. See report page 11 (page 13 of PDF).

Codify into law a requirement for at least five hearings on draft maps. Field hearings held after census data is released but before draft maps are prepared are an empty exercise, if not a sham, if not followed by a significant number of hearings on maps showing new district options. Meaningful hearings on draft maps occurred in 2011, but have not been a consistent feature of previous rounds of redistricting. See report page 13 (page 15 of PDF).

Improve participation in future census boundary block suggestion programs. This would help reduce subsequent implementation problems faced by county election administrators. See report page 14 (page 16 of PDF).

Provide meaningful opportunities for input by county election administrators including a ten day period to review redistricting legislation before final enactment. See report page 15 (report page 17 of PDF).

Create an ongoing redistricting task force to address the loss of institutional memory due to this process occurring once only every ten years. See report page 18 (page 20 of PDF).

Eliminate redistricting distortions due to prison populations. See report page 18 (page 20 of PDF).

Clarify current law on post-redistricting congressional special elections. See report page 19 (page 21 of PDF).

Clarify the timeline for congressional redistricting. See report page 20 (page 22 of PDF).

The historical and political context of Oregon’s 2011 redistricting is discussed on report pages 3-6 (pages 5-8 of PDF).

Common Cause Oregon supports redistricting by independent commission, but recognizes that this reform doesn’t remove politics from this inherently partisan process. The details of an independent redistricting commission proposal are especially important since there are many positive aspects of Oregon’s redistricting rules that must be retained. This report discusses the California independent redistricting commission, but reforms must be tailored for each state. Also discussed are inappropriate proposals to change redistricting in Oregon. See pages 20 through 25 in the report.

Produced independently is a complementary report released today by the City Club of Portland that focuses on the question of who draws new district lines and outlines an independent commission reform proposal.

“Using these reports to prepare proposals for consideration by lawmakers in 2013 will be the next step,” said Thompson. “The next legislative session is long enough for redistricting reform discussions and is the best time to act because political calculations will increase closer to the next round of redistricting.”