November 24, 2018
Oregon voters may get a chance in 2020 to decide who is in charge of redrawing legislative districts: state lawmakers or an independent commission.
The obscure work is about much more than how lines are drawn on a map.
The shape of legislative districts can divide or carve up communities and tilt the balance of power toward a specific political party based on demographics and past voting patterns.
In essence, redistricting can chart the political course of any voter’s legislative district for years to come without them having any say.
There are two potential paths for changing that in the next election.
Kevin Mannix, a longtime Oregon activist and former state lawmaker who switched parties from Democrat to Republican, is floating a ballot initiative for 2020 that would change the Oregon Constitution and place legislative redistricting in the hands of a nonpartisan commission.
Separately, the League of Women Voters of Oregon is working on 2019 legislation that would refer a system for an independent redistricting commission to the 2020 ballot.
Both proposals would result in a huge shift from the current system, which empowers state lawmakers to draw the boundaries that determine the shape — and representation — of legislative districts.
The proposals, while different, reflect a broader concern: that without systemic reforms, redistricting will continue to be a political bloodsport fraught with partisanship as insiders jockey to draw district lines that give their candidate and party an edge on Election Day.
“The tradition of gerrymandering is sadly alive and well,” Mannix told the Statesman Journal.