There are times to play nice, and there are times to play tough.
When it comes to drawing a new map of Oregon's six congressional districts following the 2020 census -- we get an additional seat due to population growth -- it's definitely a time for Democrats to play tough.
After all, in states where they're in control of redistricting, Republicans are going all-out to draw maps that are gerrymandered to ensure that GOP candidates win as many seats as possible. Republican politicians even have said that redistricting alone is going to guarantee a Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 2022.
It's great that Democrats are more fair-minded than Republicans. A number of blue states have independent redistricting commissions. If every state had such a commission, that'd be wonderful.
But Oregon Democrats shouldn't give up their political power. In this state, the legislature tries to draw a congressional redistricting map. If the legislature can't agree, then the state Supreme Court takes over.
Unfortunately, a Democratic leader has already surrendered much of the power her party had over congressional redistricting. This struck me as a really bad idea at the time. Now that we know Oregon has earned a sixth seat in the House of Representatives, it was a really really bad idea.
As part of a deal to avoid Republican delay tactics in this year’s legislative session, House Speaker Tina Kotek agreed to give GOP members an equal say on the House Redistricting Committee. Without at least one Republican vote in that committee, no map can pass.
Still, Oregon Democrats should do their best to get the map they've released approved by the legislature. Or at least, a map close to their proposed map. If Republicans want to take a chance at whatever the Supreme Court comes up with in the event of a legislative stalemate, fine.
I just don't think Democrats should bend very much on trying to get five congressional seats that are safe D or lean D. Speaker Kotek made a mistake in giving Republicans a veto over what the House Redistricting Committee comes up with.
It was crazy to give up the opportunity to do unto Republicans in Oregon what Republicans are doing to Democrats in states under their control: gerrymander Dems into as few congressional seats as possible.
UPDATE: Came across this tweet that makes my point.
(All I can think of is maybe Kotek figured that Republicans would stage a legislative walkout over a Dem-friendly map, so that's why she made the deal, figuring that if the Supreme Court was going to draw the congressional map anyway, she might as well get a concession from Republicans to stop slowing down the 2021 legislative session.)
By comparison, this map released by Oregon Democrats seems quite fair by comparison, though not surprisingly it does tilt in favor of Democratic candidates.
Of special interest this year is how Oregon creates a brand new congressional district, splitting the state into six parts instead of the current five. With Democrats currently controlling the U.S. House by a slim margin, how Oregon proceeds could have implications in Washington, D.C.
Democrats’ proposal would center the new Congressional district in two areas that have seen some of the fastest population growth in the last decade: Washington County and the Salem region. The proposal would expand Congressional District 3, currently held by Portland Democratic U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, far to the east and south to encompass Hood River, Wasco, and Jefferson counties, and snatch up a portion of fast-growing Bend. It would send Congressional District 5, held by Democrat Kurt Schrader, deeper into the Portland area, and farther south while divorcing it from the coast.
And according to one analysis, the plan would be biased heavily in Democrats’ favor. A tool created by the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center to identify bias in political maps based on four measures suggests the proposal favors Democrats on all four measures, though it suggests such ratings might be skewed in a state with fewer than seven districts. The analysis suggests it could lead to a congressional split of 5 Democrats to 1 Republican, a breakdown that is far out-of-step with the partisan split in statewide races. The website Fivethirtyeight concurred with that analysis.