The Oregon Supreme Court upheld district maps adopted by the state legislature for its own districts, as Oregon approaches what could be a first election cycle with six seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and a change in districts for Lincoln County, depending on the outcome of a separate lawsuit.

The Oregon Legislature passed two bills in September redrawing districts for state senators and representatives, as well changing boundaries in U.S. Congressional districts that see Lincoln County moved to the 4th from the 5th District and the creation of a sixth that splits the district of sitting Rep. Kurt Schrader, the 5th.

Separate lawsuits were filed against the bills, one of which was still pending as of press time Tuesday.

Redistrict-Map

A map shows changes to Oregon’s Congressional districts, including a new 6th District with Salem in its southeast corner, proposed under the Oregon Legislature’s adopted plan. The new map also moves Lincoln County into the 4th from the 5th District. No district boundaries changed in the eastern region not shown in the map, all of which is in District 2.

Two petitioners sued to nullify the adopted map of state legislative districts, SB 882 — one in its entirety, which also asked for it to be replaced with an “Equitable Map Oregon,” and another challenging changes to the 8th and 12th districts in the Eugene area.

The Oregon Supreme Court ruled in an opinion published Monday that the petitioners did not succeed in showing that the legislature failed to reasonably consider all statutorily mandated factors in drawing the new map (areas of common interest such as school districts, transportation links, equal population, etc.), nor had they shown they’d been drawn for the purposes of favoring one party, the Democratic supermajority, or an incumbent.

The new state legislative maps will take effect in January, and some candidates seem to have been awaiting the decision before filing to run in the May 17, 2022 election. Registration opened in September and continues through March 8, 2022.

Yachats residents will vote with the rest of Lincoln County’s municipalities for the first time in at least 10 years. The new 10th District, currently represented by democrat Rep. David Gomberg, loses portions of Tillamook, Polk and Yamhill counties, and it now comprises all of Lincoln County and parts of Lane and Benton counties, including the city of Philomath.

State senate districts comprise two house districts, and District 5, currently represented by Sen. Dick Anderson, reflects changes to District 10, and it loses some territory in western Benton County and adds square mileage in eastern Lane County with changes to House District 9.

A decision was expected today (Wednesday) from a five-judge panel appointed by Chief Justice Martha Walters on a more controversial proposal that would add an Oregon seat to the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. The new maps increase or maintain existing majorities, including in a safe Republican district, and the new seat would most likely favor Democrats.

A report card from the non-partisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the map “Fs” in partisan fairness and competiveness and a “C” in geographic features (“A fair map is expected to have reasonably shaped districts that respect existing administrative and political boundaries,” according to the project).

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of former secretary of state Bev Clarno and three other former state GOP officials, called the plan “a clear, egregious partisan gerrymander, as has been widely acknowledged both in Oregon and across the country.”

The panel of judges, one from each Congressional district, has been considering a finding of fact by a “special master” based on 15 hours of hearings. In his tentative opinion, the special master, a retired judge, agreed with the Oregon Department of Justice’s defense of the map as meeting statutory criteria, and said he’d seen no proof of blatant partisan bias.

If the five-judge panel agrees with the special master, their decision can be appealed to the state supreme court. The panel could also accept a map proposed by Republicans or offer its own plan.

If the adopted map is ultimately successful, Lincoln County, which has been in Rep. Kurt Schrader’s 5th District, will likely be represented in the U.S. House by Rep. Peter DeFazio, barring an upset in November 2022. The new map adds Lincoln County and parts of Benton to the 4th District, which loses some territory in southern Oregon, the Willamette Valley, Coast Range and Cascades.

The change favors the incumbent party, judging by the results of the most recent election. Had the new 4th District boundaries been in place in 2020, President Joe Biden would have carried the district by 12 percent, compared to the 4 percent advantage he actually won, according to an analysis by Roll Call. DeFazio carried the election by 6 percent.

Barring the success of an as-yet-undeclared primary challenger, DeFazio will likely face off again against well-funded Afghanistan-War veteran Alek Skarlatos in the 2022 General Election.

The brand new 6th District would span Polk, Yamhill and Marion counties, including the city of Salem and a section of the southwest Portland metro currently in the 5th District.

Had it existed in 2020, Biden would have carried the 6th District 57 to 43 percent.

In addition to losing area in several counties, including Lincoln, the new 5th District would add the Willamette Valley north of Eugene up to the southeast Portland metro and over to Mount Hood, with a dog leg into Deschutes County and the Cascades to include the city of Bend.

There is no requirement that a U.S. representative in Oregon reside in the district for which they run, and with his current constituency split more or less in half, Schrader might choose to run in either. He currently lives in Canby, which is in the 5th. He faces potential primary challengers in both.

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