Every decade, armed with US Census data,State legislators have the job of redrawing the boundaries of representative districts to better reflect population changes
The State Senate and House committees charged with redrawing legislative and congressional district boundaries have begun their work. One of the first steps is to schedule hearings for taking public comment on redistricting. Crook County officials are not waiting for that, though. Already, with the new boundary lines yet to be drawn, local officials are making it clear they will watch the process closely.
In a letter to the Senate Rules and redistricting Committee, Crook County Judge Scott Cooper and Commissioners Jerry Crafton and Mike McCabe identified which counties they consider acceptable.
At the present time, State Rep. Greg Smith House District 59 (Crook, Baker, Gilliam, Grant, Sherman, Wheeler and portions of Morrow and Wasco counties). Sen. Ted Ferrioli represents Senate District 28 (Crook, Baker, Gilliam, Grant, Hood River, Sherman, Wheeler and portions of Clackamas, Morrow, Multnomah and Wasco counties).
In making their decision, the county officials asked that the redistricting committee take into account contiguity, existing geographic and political boundaries. Community of interest considerations and transportation links are other criteria that help set the limits.
Crook County, the letter points out, seems primarily to be tied to counties east of the Cascades along Highway 26. "In particular," the letter states, "we would be well matched in a district that included Jefferson, Wasco, Wheeler, Grant and Baker counties."
Economics and demographics are the basis for this statement. Relative sparse density, similar population sizes and heavy reliance on timber and agriculture are the descriptions given. The county court advised the committee in the letter of their concerns about being included with Deschutes County. "While we have many common interests," the court's letter stated, "we fear the disparity between the size of our population ... will impact our ability to receive adequate attention."
Other concerns about being included in a district with Deschutes County involve that county's transition from a natural resource based economy to a more high-tech economy.
Being included with Klamath, Lake or Harney counties would bring other issues, the letter cautions.
In addition to taking public testimony during committee meetings at the state capitol, the committees will travel around the state to get input from Oregonians. The two committees are working in a bi-partisan manner to receive public testimony over the next two months and will travel to at least 11 different locations around Oregon during that time.
"As we consider the possibilities of where district lines may be located, we want to hear ideas from as many citizens as possible," said Sen. Steve Harper (R-Klamath Falls), chair of the Senate Rules and Redistricting Committee.
The 2000 Census shows Oregon grew by nearly 600,000 people since the last census in 1990. The legislature has the responsibility of redrawing legislative and congressional district boundaries to reflect the growth of Oregon's population and the movement of people from some parts of the state to others.
"Our committee members and other legislators are eager to hear suggestions and reasons from the public for moving legislative and congressional district lines," said Rep. Carl Wilson (R-Grants Pass), chair of the House Rules, Redistricting, and Public Affairs Committee.
"Our goal is to develop redistricting plans that will effectively represent all Oregonians," said Sen. Peter Courtney (D-Salem), vice-chair of the Senate committee.
The committees will meet at different locations around the state with the only hearing scheduled for central Oregon to be held in Bend on March 30.
The legislature will use criteria as outlined in law for redistricting legislative and congressional districts. The criteria require that no district be drawn for the purpose of favoring any political party, incumbent legislator, or other person, and that no district be drawn for the purpose of diluting the voting strength of any language or ethnic minority group.
Anyone wishing to keep informed on the process as it evolves can find updated information on the Internet at www.leg.state.or.us/