Redistricting decisions made in 2011 will have a significant impact on the future of all Oregonians. If history replays itself, Oregonians in rural areas again may become victims of poorly drawn political districts.
For ten years, rural “communities of interest” have been victims of gerrymandering. The small community of John Day is divided at the only traffic light in all of Grant County. Coastal communities are lumped with interior farmland and bedroom communities which share little to no economic commerce or even a common news source.
The opportunity to change these outcomes is before us. Oregon’s Legislative Redistricting Committee is conducting meetings and asking for input throughout the state. It is up to the citizens to participate and to inform the committee about what works best for their community.
It is imperative that the committee draw district lines that don’t divide common communities of interest. For rural Oregon, that means understanding where folks commonly go to shop, where they get their news, what schools their children attend, and what transportation corridors are used to access these communities. Districts should be drawn in geographically compact and contiguous areas which also recognize natural geographic boundaries.
Despite a seemingly bipartisan effort, the cards are stacked against legislators. The legislature has not successfully drawn districts in sixty years. Oregonians must pay attention and engage in redistricting discussions. If we dislike the outcomes, we must insist on an independent redistricting commission.
Karla Kay Edwards is Rural Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization. She has held positions of leadership in numerous organizations focusing on agricultural and rural industries and issues, including the Fresno (California) Farm Bureau, Washington Cattlemen’s Association and the Oregon Department of Agriculture.