Every 10 years, after the results of the US Census have been tallied, the boundaries of congressional, state, and local districts and wards must be redrawn to try to achieve the goal of “One person, one vote.” This process is more complicated than first meets the eye. Does the result seem to be unbiased? Can politics be taken out of the process?
Oregon State law requires many things of districts. They must be contiguous, utilize existing geographic or political boundaries, and be connected by transportation links. They should not be drawn for the purpose of favoring a political party, incumbent, or other person nor, should they divide communities of common interest.
Current Oregon law leaves it up to the legislature in the first instance to draw the lines. A proposal by People, Not Politicians, a group affiliated with the League of Women Voters, seeks to amend the Oregon Constitution. They propose to create a panel of 12 citizens, four from each of the top three political parties, to conduct the redistricting process.
In this program, Stuart Chinn will provide background on some of the major US Supreme Court cases dealing with gerrymandering and attempts to curb some of the abuses. Senator Lee Beyer, who served on the last two redistricting commissions, will describe the current Oregon practices. Norman Turrill, the chief petitioner on the People Not Politicians ballot measure, will talk about the proposed amendment.
Stuart Chinn earned BA, PhD (political science), and JD degrees from Yale University. He is currently an Associate Professor of Law and the Associate Dean for Programs and Research at the University of Oregon Law School. He writes and teaches about constitutional law, legislation, and legal and political history. His book, “Recalibrating Reform: The Limits of Political Change,” was published by Cambridge University Press in 2014. Chin also has published in major peer-reviewed journals and law reviews.
Senator Lee Beyer served in the military and subsequently attended Lane Community College, and graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in management. Beyer’s community service began in 1978, when he was appointed to the Springfield City Planning Commission. He was elected to the Springfield City Council in 1986, serving there until 1993. In 1991 he entered the Oregon Legislature as a state representative. In 1998 Beyer was elected to the State Senate.
Norman Turrill is the chief petitioner on the People Not Politicians proposal. His early involvement with the antiwar movement blossomed into a commitment to civic and political activism, with a particular focus on political reform. As a member of the Oregon state board of Common Cause, Turrill worked to make government more transparent through sunshine laws and other reforms. He was one of the first men to join the League of Women Voters. Much of his work with the League on the state and national levels has involved technology. While on the national board, he oversaw the creation of the League’s website and developed the “League Geeks,” who use social media to broaden the League’s membership and expand its voter education efforts.