Among the four petitioners: Redmond resident, former secretary of state Bev Clarno
SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) – Four Republican former elected officials, including Redmond resident and former secretary of state Bev Clarno, filed suit Monday against current Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, seeking to throw out Democrats’ U.S. House redistricting map, which they called an “obvious, extreme, partisan gerrymander.”
The Oregon Legislature recently approved new congressional and legislative districts in the once-a-decade redistricting process based on new census data on population growth and shifts.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reported the lines redrawn to make room for a new, sixth U.S. House district seat were all but guaranteed to give Democrats five of the six seats (they now have four of the five). That 83% ratio far exceeds the 56% share of the Oregon vote for Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
The lawsuit, filed in Marion County Circuit Court, claims the map splits two to three times as many counties and census tracts, even small block groups into different congressional districts than the last time lawmakers redrew districts a decade ago.
The GOP takes particular issue with the new boundaries of the 5th District, now helped by Oregon City Democrat Kurt Schrader. The newly drawn district extends from the southeast edge of Portland all the way to Bend and Redmond.
The four petitioners claim the new map "violates Oregon law by unnecessarily splitting counties and communities of common interest, while ignoring political and geographic boundaries in such an egregious way that no reasonable Legislative Assembly would do."
The lawsuit asks the court to redraw the districts before the 2022 election cycle begins. Under a new system lawmakers enacted in 2013, a five-judge panel appointed by the Oregon Supreme Court’s chief justice will hear the case and, if they agree with Republicans’ challenges, redraw the lines, the newspaper said.
Along with Clarno, also a former lawmaker and House speaker, the others who joined in the suit are former House speaker Larry Campbell, former House Republican leader Gary Wilhelms and former The Dalles mayor James Wilcox.
Clarno issued a statement that said: “Oregon Democrats broke their word to their fellow legislators and then broke the law. Oregon law has very clear protections against partisan gerrymandering that our legislature chose to violate. My hope is that the judges reviewing this case will uphold the law, say no to gerrymandering, and say yes to the fair representation Oregonians deserve.”
House Republican Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby) also issued a statement on the lawsuit.
“Gerrymandering is cheating," she said. "Oregon Democrats want a map that protects incumbents and silences the voices of Oregonians. This challenge is an opportunity for the courts to fix the political gerrymandering and create maps that truly represent Oregon.”