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Five-Judge Panel Upholds Congressional Districts That Oregon Lawmakers Drew

The lines include a new sixth district centered on Salem.

A panel of five senior state court judges today rejected a legal argument that lawmakers improperly drew new boundaries for Oregon’s congressional districts earlier this year.

“Petitioners have failed to demonstrate that the legislatively adopted congressional reapportionment plan, Senate Bill 881, does not comply with all applicable statutes and the United States and Oregon Constitutions in any of the ways they have asserted,” the judges wrote in their decision.

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave Oregon’s new congressional map failing grades in the categories of “partisan fairness” and “competitiveness,” saying the lines offer “significant Democratic advantage” and are “very uncompetitive relative to other maps that could have been drawn.”

The Princeton group’s analysis shows that Oregon’s new sixth district, which is centered in Marion County but also includes Bend, is a likely Democratic pickup, while the state’s other districts are likely to remain the same, i.e.. all Democratic except for the sprawling 2nd Congressional District, which includes more than half the state’s area and is overwhelmingly Republican.

The judges disagreed, finding that the new map “provides no significant partisan advantage to either political party” and therefore complies with redistricting laws.”

House Minority Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby), who reacted angrily when House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) shifted the partisan makeup of the committee of lawmakers drawing the congressional boundaries, panned the outcome.

“This gerrymandered congressional redistricting map is an incumbent protection plan that Democrats desperately fought to keep. Rather than serve the interests of Oregonians, they have served themselves. This is why we need an independent redistricting commission to take this job away from politicians.”

Democratic legislative leaders disagreed.

“The Legislature has done its job,” said Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem). “I’m glad that our product was taken to the courts. This map went through a very thorough and objective review. A panel of judges found the work we’ve done has followed the law.”

Kotek, who initially agreed to give Republicans equal representation on the redistricting committee but later changed her mind to give Democrats an advantage, also cheered today’s decision. (Like Drazan, Kotek is running for governor.)

In a joint statement with House Majority Leader Barbara Smith Warner (D-Portland), Kotek said the judges got today’s decision right.

“The Legislature passed maps that are fair, legal, and constitutional,” the House leaders said. “It was a tremendous challenge to complete this constitutional duty in a very condensed timeline, and we appreciate the legislators who worked to get the job done for the people of Oregon.”