Kevin Mannix wants to change the way Oregon draws congressional and legislative districts.
The secretary of state's elections division announced on Friday afternoon that Mannix has turned in the sponsorship signatures for a proposed 2020 ballot measure that would amend the procedure laid out in the Oregon constitution for re-drawing legislative and congressional districts.
Mannix, who represented Salem in the Legislature for more than 10 years, twice ran for attorney general and was the 2002 GOP nominee for governor, has been long a prolific generator of ballot measures. He also wrote five ballot measures including, Measure 11 which in 1994 created mandatory minimum sentence for violent crimes.
He's now hoping to focus on re-drawing the geographic boundaries of legislative and congressional districts, an enormously important part of electoral politics.
In Oregon, the Legislature gets first crack at drawing the lines for Oregon's five (possibly soon to be six) U.S. House of Representative seats; it also draws the lines for Oregon's 30 state Senate districts and 60 House district.
The process takes place every 10 years, after the U.S. Census and is next scheduled for 2021.
While legislators currently draw the district lines, their maps must then be approved by the governor. That's one of the many reasons Democrats fought so hard for the re-election of incumbent Gov. Kate Brown on Nov. 6.
If a governor were to veto legislative efforts, then the secretary of state gets the next crack at drawing up the districts.
That, of course, would put the power of the pen in the hands of Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, who in 2016 became the first Republican to win office since 2002. Upon taking office, Richardson quickly convened a task force to examine Oregon's redistricting process, which Republicans think favors Democrats.
That effort didn't go very far.
Washington and California have both moved away from the legislatively controlled system Oregon follows.
But the notionally nonpartisan proposal Mannix has put forward will probably meet strong opposition because it transfers power from the heavily populated (and blue) Oregon counties to the lightly populated (and red) counties.
How does Mannix propose to do that?
His ballot initiative would empower an 11-member panel, rather than the Legislature, to handle re-districting. The members of the panel would be appointed by the county commissioners in each of Oregon's 36 counties.
Here's how that would break down:
And that's the reason Mannix's measure faces long odds: Multnomah County, with about 807,000 residents or just under a fifth of the state's population, for instance, would get the same say as the combination of Coos and Douglas counties, which have fewer than 200,000 residents.
In effect, Mannix's proposal would give disproportionate weight to Oregon's rural counties, which have neither the population or the economic impact of the state's larger counties.
Mannix says his focus is on eliminating partisan gerrymandering by concentrating redistricting on "maximally compact districts based on established census tracts."
"The whole point of having commissioners from all over the state, who are nonpartisan, and who cannot gerrymander, is to completely clean up the redistricting system while engaging support from people all over the state," Mannix said in a email. "We are all Oregonians."
If the elections division finds he's met the standard of collecting 1,000 valid sponsorship signatures, Mannix would then need to collect 117,578 valid signatures to qualify for the 2020 ballot.