Report: Improvements needed for OR's redistricting process
Monday, October 16, 2023
Oregon has room to improve when it comes to drawing voting-district lines, according to a new report.
The nonpartisan elections watchdog Common Cause gives the state a grade of C-minus for its redistricting process, which happens when states receive census data and use it to map the borders of legislative districts.
Executive Director of Common Cause Oregon Kate Titus said Oregon is a model of democracy's best practices in many respects, and consistently has high voter participation.
"But when it comes to redistricting, Oregon has a process that's controlled by the Legislature," said Titus, "and that's inherently problematic, because legislators have a conflict of interest in drawing the lines of the districts that they're going to run in."
The report criticizes Oregon for inadequate public outreach and failing to incorporate public input, especially from Confederated Tribe of Warm Springs members over their concerns that the map split their reservation from the nearby city of Madras.
Dan Vicuña is the director of redistricting and representation for Common Cause. He said in past decades, redistricting was a relatively unknown and unscrutinized process.
However, Vicuña said he believes the public is increasingly connecting the shape of voting maps to their fight for resources.
"The public understands that whether you're kept in one district with a community that shares concerns of all sorts," said Vicuña, "can really make the difference between having a champion in the halls of power, or not having a champion."
Vicuña said the states the fared best in the report are the ones that took redistricting out of the hands of legislators in favor of independent, bipartisan commissions.
California and Massachusetts scored the highest grades - A-minus.
Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
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