Oregon gained a sixth congressional seat today as a result of the 2020 U.S Census.
Oregon’s population has expanded over the past decade from 3.8 million to over 4.2 million, a 10.6% increase, as newcomers from other states crossed the border. Oregon is one of only six states to gain a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. (In the West, Colorado and Montana each gained a seat. California lost one.)
The additional seat isn’t a surprise: Oregon barely missed gaining a congressional seat in the 2010 Census, and population studies suggested it was a near lock. But the announcement sets up another round in Oregon’s redistricting battles. Democrats control all but one of Oregon’s five current seats in the U.S. House, and now the Oregon Legislature must redraw the congressional district boundaries. That process gives Republicans a sliver of hope of winning a seat.
Rep. Andrea Salinas (D-Lake Oswego), who co-chairs the House Redistricting Committee, called the news “exciting.”
“Our state’s growth and changing demographics require a careful redistricting process that includes the voices, needs, and stories of all Oregonians, including those who’ve traditionally been shut out of the political process,” Salinas said. “Oregonians will have another voice in Congress—and that’s great news for all Oregonians.”
Rep. Christine Drazan, a Republican representing Danby, expressed excitement about the results, too, but of a different shade—and hints at what may be a tense process to redraw the district boundaries in the coming months.
“Now that we have equal representation on the redistricting committee, our legislative and congressional districts will be drawn in a way that avoids political gerrymandering,” Drazan said. “Our current maps have favored one political party over another for the past 20 years, but Oregonians can be confident that this sixth congressional district will be drawn according to the rules to give people fair representation.”
Redrawing district boundaries has already created drama among Oregon’s leaders this year.
This spring, state leaders were faced with questions regarding how to redraw the boundaries knowing that the census numbers would arrive later than usual. Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan proposed beginning the process early using available data from Portland State University’s Population Research Center. But the Oregon Supreme Court rejected that proposal after Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) and House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) challenged her in court.
Lawmakers have until Sept. 27 to redraw the lines, and plans must be cemented by Jan. 31 of next year.