A task force created by Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson is recommending that future redistricting be done by an independent commission. That would be a significant change from the current model, which tasks Oregon lawmakers with drawing up a plan. Redistricting is the process of drawing new legislative and congressional districts to match shifts in population. It takes place every 10 years, following the U.S. Census. Oregon’s next redistricting will occur in 2021. The current method of allowing lawmakers to draw the maps is “susceptible to political manipulation,” Richardson wrote in a newsletter announcing the task force report. “There is an inherent conflict of interest in allowing legislators to draw their own districts and pick their own voters.”
Legislative redistricting maps are created as bills that need to be signed by the governor to take effect. That last happened in 2011. The legislation was approved with broad support from both Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature, and was signed into law by Gov. John Kitzhaber.
But that’s not always been the case in Oregon. Between 1961 and 2011, every redistricting attempt by the Legislature ended in failure. In some cases, lawmakers simply couldn’t agree, meaning it fell to the secretary of state to draw the maps. In other cases, lawmakers agreed, but the plan was vetoed by the governor. Other times, legal challenges meant the final decision came at the Oregon Supreme Court.