On Tuesday, November 3, Oregon’s citizens will sit down with their ballots and consider many issues, from campaign finance reform to legalizing the therapeutic use of psilocybin mushrooms. However, after a last-minute ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, an end to partisan redistricting will not be one of them.
The initiative would have created a non-partisan commission to redraw congressional and legislative district boundaries. Instead, the job of redistricting, which is carried out every ten years, will continue to be handled by the Legislature and the Governor. Redistricting will take place next year, after the 2020 Census is completed, almost certainly with a Legislature controlled by Democrats.
Normally, an initiative petition would have had to file 150,000 signatures before July 2. Backers of the initiative filed a Federal lawsuit asking for consideration on account of the pandemic, and U.S. District Judge Michael McShane extended the deadline to September 3, and reduced the required number of signatures to 58,789.
The U.S. Supreme court stayed McShane’s order on August 11, and with time running out, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that since it would be impossible to decide the legality of the initiative before the delayed deadline, the initiative should be declared disqualified.
The ruling was a disappointment to its backers, which included not only Republican-supporting business interests but also civic organizations like the League of Women Voters (LWV). Norman Turrill, an officer of the LWV and the lead sponsor of the initiative, said the group would continue to seek legislation to ensure “fair, transparent and impartial” redistricting in the future.
The measure was opposed by the Oregon Democratic Party and its supporters, although anti-gerrymandering legislation is backed by Democrats in Republican-controlled states.
Karynn Fish, spokeswoman for Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, told reporters that the decision “brings certainty to voters and confirms that there will be no last-minute changes to the ballot.”
John M. Burt