Group Files Suit to Get Gerrymandering Prevention on November’s Ballot

  People Not Politicians wants to form a multi-partisan commission that would be in charge of redistricting in Oregon. Currently when the state wants to redraw voting distinct lines, members of the state legislature are in charge.  

To get their proposals IP 57, 58 and 59 on the November Ballot, People Not Politicians were required to collect 149,360 valid voter signatures by July 2. The group was unable to collect the required signatures and filed a federal lawsuit to request considerations and a deadline extension.   

The lawsuit names Beverly Clarno, Oregon Secretary of State. They requested to have the signature collection deadline extended until August 17 and the required signatures to be reduced to 2018 levels 58,789.  

People Not Politicians said they originally filed in November 2019. Due to “multiple politically-motivated legal challenges,” they were not approved to start collecting signatures until April.   

They said their approval came weeks after Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued several emergency orders and the Stay Home, Save Lives program.   

“People Not Politicians is committed to ensuring that redistricting reform happens before Oregon draws new maps in 2021. We forged ahead through unprecedented times with an unprecedented signature gathering program, bringing in tens of thousands of petitions from Oregonians in barely over one month,” said Norman Turrill, Chief Petitioner and Chair of the People Not Politicians campaign committee.  

“We filed our lawsuit on Tuesday asking the Court to recognize the extreme and unprecedented circumstances of a global pandemic that impacted the signature gathering process in Oregon, and to protect our First Amendment rights by reducing the barriers to the ballot,” Turrill continued.  

What People Not Politicians Wants  

Every ten years, usually following a federal census, the state redraws district lines. Currently members of the state legislature have this responsibility. People Not Politicians said the issue is especially urgent since voters won’t have another chance to change the way districts are drawn until 2030.   

They say that social distancing and the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their ability to gather petitions in the usual ways, so they and other petitioners faced unprecedented challenges this year.   

People Not Politicians  proposed changing the Oregon Constitution to put redistricting in the hands of an independent, multi-partisan panel. The twelve-member panel would consist of four Republicans, four Democrats, and four people who are either not affiliated or members of minor political parties.   

The panel would exclude members who are elected-officials, political party officials, family members of officials, or who are major donors to political candidates or parties.  

People Not Politicians are backed by a variety of organizations including The League of Women Voters of Oregon ,Oregon Farm Bureau, Common Cause Oregon, The Independent Party of Oregon, NAACP Eugene and Springfield Branch, Taxpayer Association of Oregon, OSPIRG, American Association of University Women of OR, Oregon’s Progressive Party.  

Gerrymandering: Historically, and Today  

Initiatives like the one that People Not Politicians Proposed are intended to prevent Gerrymandering. Nationwide, around eleven states also have similar ballot measures or proposals.   

Gerrymandering is a practice where elected officials draw the boundaries of electoral districts in ways intended to favor a desired political party or class. In extreme circumstances, the district line can form an unusual shape as politicians draw the lines to include the voters they want and exclude those they don’t.   

According to the Smithsonian, the term came from an instance in 1812 where a politician named Elbridge Gerry was involved in drawing district lines that some thought resembled a drawing of a salamander.  

By Samantha Sied