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Weigh in on lawmakers redistricting efforts

by: Courtesy photo Rep. Brad Witt (D—Clatskanie) represents House district 31 and can be reached at www.leg.state.or.us/witt/ or at 503-986-1431

When the Founding Fathers of our nation created the Constitution, they included the requirement that a census should be taken every 10 years for the purposes of determining representation in Congress. This was a turning point in history because prior to that time, a census was used mainly to impose taxes or conscript men into military service. This year, we are dealing with the consequences of the census taken in 2010, and the resulting change in demographics causes us to have to redraw district lines. As you can imagine, with political fortunes made and lost in this process, it is fraught with controversy.

In an effort to try and create some consensus, the Legislature formed a Joint Committee on Redistricting, and this committee has been traveling the state gathering input from individuals, local jurisdictions, communities of interest and elected officials. Plans were submitted by both Republicans and Democrats for the House and Senate districts and for the Congressional districts. Although no one expected these first drafts to be perfect, the newly drawn lines provided something for everyone to hate.

It's extremely important that communities of interest remain as unified as possible. For instance, one plan places most of Columbia County's population, including the county seat, into Congressman Earl Blumenauer's 3rd District. This not only would have forced Columbia County to compete with the more populous Mult-nomah and Clackamas counties for federal funding opportunities, it placed local jurisdictions, like the Port of St. Helens and all of our county agencies, in two different Congressional districts. This is a recipe for inefficiency and confusion and I certainly did not support it.

As a result of all the pushback from the public, the Democrats have responded with Option #3. This layout looks much more like the districts that we have now, with minor adjustments for shifts in population.

Each district in the state needs to represent roughly the same number of people, so House District 31 needs to shed about 1,500 people in order to achieve that balance. As a result, House District 31 will most likely lose the Clatsop County portion, acquire a larger proportion of Columbia County and cross over into Washington County.

If the Legislature does not resolve the differences among the various plans, redistricting will end up in the hands of the Secretary of State, and possibly the courts. But we do have another opportunity to make our wishes known to the Redistricting Committee. It's not too late to add your voice to the growing chorus of people who believe that Congressional Options 1 and 2 do not reflect the best interests of our region of the state.