Oregon's increasing population has led to an additional congressional district.
The U.S. Census Bureau had released 2020 state population counts and reapportionment results, showing that Oregon will receive an additional congressional district, expanding from five to six.
The 2020 Census release is the first information to come from the count of residents in a given state and includes the overseas military and federal civilian employees, and their dependents, who call that state home.
The population counts are used to apportion the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and in determining each state’s number of votes in the Electoral College.
"The Oregon Legislature’s redistricting committees can now continue our work with a specific count of Oregon’s population,” State Sen. Kathleen Taylor (D-Southeast Portland) said.
Taylor is the chair of the Oregon Senate Committee on Redistricting.
“I am confident in our committees’ ability to continue the important work of redistricting in a fair and collaborative way that ensure all Oregonians are represented," Taylor said.
Oregon gained a fifth Congressional seat following the 1980 Census and subsequent redistricting.
Apportionment is the process of dividing the 435 memberships, or seats, in the U.S. House of Representatives among the 50 states, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. At the conclusion of each decennial census, the results are used to calculate the number of seats to which each state is entitled. Each of the 50 states is entitled to a minimum of one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Sen. Taylor's Legislative Director Katherine Morrison responded to The Chronicle's questions concerning the new congressional district.
The Chronicle: Overall, what would be the benefits to Oregonians in having a sixth congressional district, more federal appropriations, more political clout?
Katherine Morrison: The benefits for Oregon include greater representation in the U.S. House of Representatives, so Oregonians’ voices are heard proportionately in the federal legislature. It also gives Oregon an additional vote in the electoral college, which will increase Oregon’s influence in presidential elections. As our population has grown Oregon can expect to see a greater portion of federal dollars to support our students, our infrastructure and human services.
Based on the 2010 Census, each of Oregon’s U.S. Representatives represented ~766,215 Oregonians.
Based on 2019 Oregon Blue Book population numbers each of Oregon’s U.S. Representatives currently represents ~843,547 Oregonians.
With our 2020 Census data and an additional seat in Congress, that will change to ~706,209.
Not only will Oregon have another voice in Congress, those U.S. Representatives will be better able to serve their constituencies.
The Chronicle: Could you explain the state legislative process in reviewing the redistricting policies, when that review began, what the purpose is and when will the review be completed?
Morrison: For the 2021 Legislative Session, the presiding officers appointed House and Senate Committees on Redistricting. Those committees have met to take testimony from population experts, learn from legal experts and understand the details of this important, decennial task.
We also, jointly, hosted a virtual road show, which took two sessions of public testimony from each Congressional District for a total of 10 public hearings so far.
A couple of weeks ago, we learned that the Oregon Supreme Court granted the Legislature’s request for an extended timeline to complete redistricting based on the fact that the specific, detailed data we would ordinarily have this month will not be received until approximately mid-August as a result of setbacks caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Our new timeline to complete Legislative Redistricting will be September 27, 2021.
Our timeline for drawing the Congressional lines can be changed in statute, so we are working to change those timelines to align with the timelines granted by the Supreme Court.
We are also working on adjusting our candidate filing deadlines and voter pamphlet filing deadlines so that candidates can file to run for the new districts.
Between now and mid-August, our committees will continue to learn more from communities of interest and will complete redistricting during a Special Session before the September 27 deadline.
The Chronicle: Where might this new district be established, and would voters decide who would represent that new district, and when?
Morrison: We will not know the composition of each of Oregon’s districts until we complete the redistricting process. The Legislature will follow specific guidelines found in ORS 188.010 to create districts for the new decade. Yes, the voters in each of the six Congressional Districts will elect their respective U.S. Representative in the 2022 General Election.
Oregon's Congressional delegation includes, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Cliff Bentz, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, and Kurt Schrader.
To track Oregon’s Redistricting process, visit the Legislature’s Redistricting webpage.