Last week, the Oregon Senate voted to approve Senate Bills 881 and 882, which contain redrawn district lines based on the results of the 2020 census. Due to population growth in the last decade, Oregon gained a 6th congressional district. Multiple Republican legislators voiced their disapproval of the process and resulting maps, but the Senate Democrats passed the bills over their objections.
Things didn’t go as smoothly when the vote got to the House. Republicans also voiced their disapproval of the maps. Although the House and Senate district proposed in SB 882 brought scrutiny, more disapproval came from the redrawing of the six congressional districts in SB 881. To view an interactive web map of the adopted districts, please click this link.
What the New Map Looks Like
The district lines created four (districts 1, 6, 5, and 3) of the six districts branching out from the Portland area (which had been described as the center of a pizza with the Portland metro area being the middle of the pizza). District 3 extended from the Willamette River in Portland, east along the Columbia River Gorge, and down to Deschutes County to include Bend.
One of the other of the six districts (district 4) covered Lane County and the Eugene area, down to the coast border with California, with one district (district 2) including most of central, eastern, and southern Oregon. This essentially guaranteed five of the six districts being easily won by Democrats in future elections.
The Supermajority Has Its Way
House Republicans voiced their disagreement, as well as Democrat Representative Marty Wilde, who accused fellow Democrats of gerrymandering in an interview with Eugene Weekly. Speaker of the House Tina Kotek had made a previous agreement that she would include an equal representation of Republicans on the redistricting committee to ensure a fair and equal process. However, Kotek went back on her agreement and created two committees, instead of the single original committee. This arrangement favored Democrats with a 2-1 margin.
On Tuesday, September 21, when the House was supposed to take both bills to a vote, there was a coronavirus exposure in the Capitol. This caused a delay until Saturday, September 25. Republican representatives boycotted the session and did not send enough lawmakers to have a quorum on Saturday. The committees came up with a slightly different congressional map to present on Monday, September 27, at 9:00 am. The updated map moved Bend and part of Deschutes County to be joined with most of Marion and Linn Counties, up to include Lake Oswego.
The Oregonian described the new map, “Democrats’ new congressional district plan, which they offered to Republicans late last week, would create three extremely safe Democratic seats, one extra safe Republican seat, one seat that tilts in Democrats’ favor and one seat that is a virtual 50-50 tie in terms of how its voters have sided in key Republican-Democratic match-ups since 2015, an analysis by The Oregonian/OregonLive shows. The district that would apparently have nearly even Democratic-Republican match-ups would include fast-growing Bend, where expected Democratic growth could make the district bluer over the next decade.”
Kotek stated they would not wait past 9:30 on Monday morning if there was not a quorum and would send the redistricting process to Secretary of State, Shemia Fagan, as required by the Oregon Constitution. Fagan would draw the legislative maps, while a panel of retired judges would be appointed to draw the new congressional map. Sixteen of the 23 House Republicans did show up on Monday morning, stating it would be riskier to leave it to the Secretary of State.
House Republicans passionately stated their disapproval of the new district lines as not very much improved. District 5 seems to unnaturally stretch across the Cascade mountain range to include Bend, while also pushing up into Lake Oswego, likely tipping the district to favor Democrats. District 6, in a similar fashion, stretches through rural Polk and Yamhill counties, halfway into Beaverton. This also likely causes that district to be represented by a Democrat from the Portland area in future elections, although both districts could be close depending on voter turnout.
Governor Signs Bills into Law
On Monday, both bills were approved by the Oregon House and Senate, mostly along party lines, and later signed by Governor Brown. You can see the new district map below.
House Minority Leader Christine Drazan of Canby attempted to censure Kotek based on her claim of disorderly conduct, due to Kotek’s handling of the committees and not staying true to her word. Naturally, that was brought to a vote and was not approved as the vote was along party lines again.
Although the pro-life/pro-choice split is not always along party lines in the general public, these new congressional districts will make it challenging to elect pro-life candidates. The next election in 2022 will be of utmost importance for pro-life voters to turnout and make their voices heard as, although difficult, some of the new districts are winnable.
We, at Oregon Right to Life, continue to encourage voter participation for not only our state but also our country, as these new congressional districts will have an impact on national pro-life policy as well.