County remains whole in Supreme Court approved redistricting plan
- Bill Sheehy
- Central Oregonian - News
Every decade, as soon as the US census is completed, each state must begin the job of redistricting - creating new legislative boundaries to fit changes in the population. Oregon started that process a few months ago and in a short time the Republican-controlled legislature put forth their proposal. That was soon overturned and work started on a new plan. Last week,the Oregon Supreme Court upheld the redistricting plan prepared by Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury.
>The state supreme court has decided; Crook County will not be split in the new redistricting plan that leaves Prineville the largest city in the new district
In making this decision, the court rejected the challenges of 12 plaintiffs, and upheld the complaint of only one, directing the secretary to redraw district lines in Yamhill County to fix a census-related clerical error that resulted in a prison population being counted in the wrong district.
One of the briefs that the high court took under advisement was from Crook County Counsel Jeff Wilson. He had submitted a "friend of the court" brief on behalf of the county arguing that the Bradbury plan ought to be upheld. On the other hand, Coos County, Curry County, Clackamas County, Jackson County, Port of Brookings Harbor, Port of Gold Beach and City of Brookings all submitted briefs urging that the plan ought to be thrown out.
In the end, all petitions supported by the other counties, cities and ports were dismissed by the court. Only the position of Wilson and Crook County were upheld.
The decision means that Crook County will be combined with Lake County, northern Klamath County and eastern Jackson County for purposes of legislative representation for the next 10 years. Most importantly, it means that Crook County will not be divided among legislative districts, with Powell Butte or Paulina split from Prineville or worse yet, Prineville split into two districts.
It also means that Prineville will remain the largest population center in its House District. The county had argued stringently against two previous plans, one approved by the legislature's Republican majority and a draft plan submitted by the secretary of state that would have split the county among districts. Both County Clerk Dee Berman, a Democrat, and County Judge Scott Cooper, a Republican, had written letters and given testimony in strong opposition to plans which divided the county.
In the latest effort to preserve and respect the county boundary for legislative purposes, Counsel Wilson was asked to file an amicus brief with the Supreme Court.
Apparently, the county's pleas were heard. The Supreme Court's decision read in part, "The Secretary of State's summary regarding House District 55 is as follows: House District 55 contains a large portion of Central Oregon, including Prineville and many other small communities that have a rural resource economy and share agricultural and timber interests. The entirety of Crook County was placed into this district to assure that it remained whole. This district was altered in response to public testimony in three distinct ways: first, it connects the communities south of Bend (now in House District 53) in a House district that unites the needs of Deschutes County residents. Second, this district unites all of White City in its borders. Finally, Crook County was united in one House district."
The petitioners, the high court agreed, did not point to anything in the record that demonstrated evidence that the secretary of state had not considered the appropriate criteria.
County Judge Cooper applauded the work of those who supported the county in this effort and expressly congratulated Wilson for his work.