For as long as states have been redistricting, there have been efforts to tweak, reform, or commandeer the process. Oregon is no different, and there have been many attempts to tailor the process to address shortcomings of the current system. To see a sampling of reform bills, see the Oregonian’s bill tracker page.
With the exception of 2013’s House Bill 2887 (which specified a judicial process in the event the Legislature did not complete a redistricting plan), none of the reforms have passed.
In 2013 our coalition brought forward House Joint Resolution 17 and House Bill 2686 which would have overhauled the process creating an independent commission to perform redistricting instead of the Legislature.
In the 2011 Legislature, House Republicans proposed a constitutional amendment that would have created a panel of retired judges, selected by House and Senate leaders, to come up with a redistricting plan. The plan would have been submitted to voters as a referral for approval or rejection. However, the measure (HJR 46) died in committee.
Efforts have also been made to change the legislative process via the initiative system. In 2010 and again in 2012, an initiative petition to take control of redistricting from the Legislature was circulated, but failed to gain the requisite number of valid signatures to place it on the ballot.
In 2009, lawmakers introduced several constitutional amendments to change Oregon’s redistricting process. One would have created a commission of retired judges to create a legislative redistricting plan, subject to amendment by two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature. A second would have created a panel of retired judges to create a plan if the Legislature failed to do so by a three-fifths majority in each chamber. A third would tap retired judges to create both congressional and legislative redistricting plans, but submit them to voters for approval. All three proposals died in committee, as did a fourth measure that ordered a future study to evaluate the 2011 redistricting process.
In 2006, the Public Commission on the Legislature, a body created by House and Senate leaders to review the structure and operation of the Legislature, recommended establishing a five-member redistricting commission appointed by a state controller, a new, nonpartisan public office with a term of six years. The commission, using professional help from the controller’s office, would draft legislative and congressional district lines, using census data and following Oregon’s redistricting laws. The commission would submit its work to the Legislature, which could amend it by three-fifths vote of each chamber. “Redistricting and its related processes,” the report stated, “are one function whose purpose and credibility requires them to be undertaken on an arm’s length nonpartisan basis.” Yet none of the recommendations in the report related to redistricting have been enacted by the Legislature.