The next decade of Keizer’s political representation hangs in the balance as redistricting officially began last week.
For the first time since 2010, state lawmakers are attempting to redraw state district maps and released their first attempts during a virtual meeting on Sept. 3. This year’s redistricting holds even more weight with Oregon being one of six states to gain at least one congressional seat.
“It’s the most important issue of 2021, period. From a political standpoint,” said state Rep. Bill Post, whose District 25 includes Keizer. “Because it affects the future for the next 10, maybe 20, years.”
Every 10 years, Oregon’s 60 House and 30 Senate districts are redrawn to ensure each has roughly the same population in a process called redistricting.
The redistricting committee is composed of three House Democrats and three House Republicans. Each group submitted their own map of House, Senate and congressional districts during the Sept. 3 meeting and will now have until Sept. 27 to submit finalized maps.
“These maps aren't final. None of them are, and we'll be using them for public input to help us improve and ensure fair representative lines for the final maps we vote on later this month,” said Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Lake Oswego, during the Sept. 3 committee meeting where maps were released.
Oregon is set to gain a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2020 Census revealed a population increase of 10.6% since 2010. Each of the two proposed congressional maps shift Keizer from the 5th Congressional District into the new 6th Congressional District.
Under the Republicans’ plan, the 6th District would include all of Clackamas, most of Marion County and would become a much more competitive district for Republicans, according to the data website FiveThirtyEight.
The other five districts, under the Republican proposal, would include two Democratic-leaning districts, one Republican-leaning district, and two other highly competitive districts.
Post said the current map, where Oregon Democrats hold a four to one advantage in Congress, isn’t representative of Oregon. He pointed to the fact that Gov. Kate Brown only received 50.1% of votes in the 2018 election.
“It looks different on paper, but we're kind of a 50-50 state. So I would think the congressional districts should reflect that about 50-50,” said Post. “I know that that's unrealistic, but I think four to two (congressional seats) is probably more representative of Oregon.”
The Democrat proposal, according to FiveThirtyEight, would make the state even more left-leaning. The proposal would include five Democratic-leaning seats, one Republican-leaning seat and would eliminate two highly competitive seats.
The 6th District, which would include Keizer, would incorporate parts of five counties and would be Democratic-leaning.
Both proposals would have implications for 5th Congressional District Rep. Kurt Schrader and Republican Amy Ryan Courser, a Keizer-resident who challenged Schrader in the last election and announced she will be running in the 2022 midterms.
The road to victory would be tough for Schrader under the Republican proposal and tough for Courser under the Democratic proposal.
“It’ll be interesting,” Schrader said when asked about redistricting in an Aug. 27 interview with the Keizertimes. “I mean, my little old political career may hang in the balance so it’s a lot more than interesting, potentially.”
Courser said with so many unknowns, she isn’t worrying about where she is running or who she is running against.
“There's more maps to come. The hard part is that you can't really get too excited over an example until they make the final say. Now, when they make the final say, I'm ready to run,” said Courser, adding that at this point she’s preparing to run against Schrader.
If lawmakers are unable to pass new congressional maps by Sept. 27, the responsibility would fall to a judicial court. Courser, however, has faith that Democrats and Republicans can come to an agreement.
“I have the faith that it's going to work out. Not necessarily for one party or the other, but for the people to have better representation,” Courser said. “And that's what we've been lacking in my opinion”
The proposed state legislative maps also included dramatic changes to Keizer’s House District 25 and Senate District 13.
Post said House District 25, which he represents, most likely won’t include St. Paul and Newberg anymore. He said it’s important for Keizer residents to go to hearings to let mapmakers know what cities they feel should be connected with Keizer.
The hearings, where members of the public are encouraged to give feedback on the maps, are split up based on congressional districts. The 5th Congressional District had its first hearing Sept. 9 and will have its second hearing Sept. 13 at 8 am.
Readers can find the proposed maps and redistricting schedule at oregonlegislature.gov/redistricting.
News tip? Contact reporter Joey Cappelletti at [email protected] or 616-610-3093.