Appeals Court Rejects Oregon Attorney General’s Hold on Redistricting Initiative

A lower threshold on signature gathering due to the coronavirus pandemic will remain for a proposed ballot initiative that would put an independent commission in charge of the state’s redistricting process, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. 

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum requested the court to stop the effort after a federal judge ordered Secretary of State Bev Clarno to accept the signatures the campaign gathered by the deadline or give organizers more time and a lower bar to get on the November ballot, the Oregonian reported. 

The Oregon Legislature is redrawing legislative and congressional districts, as required every ten years. The job ultimately ends up in the hands of the secretary of state in most cases after elected officials fail to complete the process, according to the City Club of Portland. 

The proposed ballot initiative would put the redistricting job under a new 12-person commission. The move is supported by the League of Women Voters, business associations and branches of the NAACP, who contend that there are inherent conflicts in legislators establishing their own electoral boundaries. 

Clarno gave until Aug. 17 to finish collecting the 58,789 signatures needed, lowered from nearly 150,000, to qualify the measure for the November ballot. The original deadline was July 2. 

“People Not Politicians engaged in an extraordinarily energetic and creative effort to gather signatures safely during a pandemic, said Kate Titus, executive director of Common Cause Oregon, part of the campaign, in a statement.We hope the court ultimately lets the public decide whether everyday Oregonians—not politicians—should draw our legislative and congressional districts.”  

By Cody Mann