Software at the redistricting hearing/Stapilus
The first two - and they are only the first two - sets of Oregon redistricting maps, from legislators Democratic and Republican - already have drawn ome disapproval. The Oregonian pronounced itself ("Back to the drawing board") dissatisfied with the opening shots on both sides - impractical and unlikely, it said. The two plans visible so far are, pretty clearly, partisan plans.
Lots of people have issues with the plans (each of which in a reasonable shot at protecting one or the other party). The hearing today started out with two of those critics: A Democrat and a Republican.
State Representative John Huffman of District 59, one of those large districts east of the Cascades (taking in Wasco, Sherman Gilliam and other counties); he noted that the plans call for splitting the area around The Dalles, splitting small counties - and that would be an issue for people in that area. The take from Representative Deborah Boone, in District 32 on the northern coast, had a similar complaint: The plans, she noted, split Tillamook County, and "of all my counties, that's one of my most cohesive counties." She wound up showing a map of the northern coast, "if I were queen for a day".
There was some purely partisan commentary; one witness blasted away at the Democrats as having created a divisive and generally awful plan.
Some of the most interesting and pungent commentary came from Sal Peralta of the Independent Party, pointing out that both plans reduce the number of competitive legislative districts (of which there aren't all that many to begin with). "Currently, there are only 10 of the 60 House districts with a voter registration differential of 6% or less between the two major parties," he said. "Broadly speaking, this means that 83% of House legislative districts are non-competitive between candidates of the two main parties." Competition isn't one of the main criteria redistricters are required to consider, but maybe it should be.
"What I've seen in the press in the last week is not healthy," he said.
He also suggested that the parties move out of their "silos" and try developing maps working together.
"It's been an interesting week since the map were released," Representative Chris Garrett, D-Lake Oswego. "Every day in this busines we gt critiized for trying to do business out of the bupublic potlight ... We're going to proceed to take public reaction - it's been messy but I'm not sure there's a better way to do it."
Redistricting may be a math-based process, but there are no perfect answers.