Legislative redistricting also establishes new lines for school advocacy
Monday, March 1, 2021
Advocacy work depends on relationships with legislators, and redistricting this year could shake up some of that school district representation.
The Oregon Constitution requires that after the census is conducted every 10 years, the Legislative Assembly will apportion the state’s senators and representatives among legislative districts according to the state’s population. This process is known as redistricting.
The numbers of senators and representatives do not change and school district boundaries do not change, but the overlap of legislative districts and school districts can change. School board members can find themselves working with a different legislator, possibly even from a different party, so the process deserves some attention.
The House and Senate Redistricting committees will draw legislative boundaries based on mandated criteria. If the redistricting is not completed by the end of June and signed by Gov. Kate Brown, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan will take over the process, and any changes need to be completed by Aug. 15.
The redistricting can be sharply political, pushing legislators out of office and giving some candidates better odds. Legislators must live in their districts, and sitting legislators have been forced to move if they want to stay in their district.
The boundary setting will change the political landscape for the next 10 years. Legislative districts that have a slim margin for a party can be redrawn to make re-election more or less difficult. Redistricting will likely need to shrink some metro district boundaries while increasing some rural districts' sizes to maintain equal district populations.
Politically, that could be a problem for the Republicans, who are already at a distinct disadvantage in legislative numbers. A couple of line shifts could create an unopposable Democratic supermajority.
That would be unfortunate, regardless of your party affiliation. I think a balanced Legislature creates better public policy. A more balanced Legislature forces Democrats and Republicans to work together, especially when one side feels a policy is bad. It creates the need to collaborate toward a better product for both sides of the issue.
A Democratic supermajority in the House and Senate leaves little need for collaboration. Republicans have resorted to simply not showing up to grind legislative work to a halt, as we saw again last week.
Oregon’s population is increasing, with the growth mostly concentrated in metro areas. Redistricting will likely need to shrink the size of some districts covering cities while increasing the size of districts in rural areas to maintain equal populations in districts. One fallout is that rural interests may end up with less legislative representation.
Relationships are key to influencing legislation, and some school advocates may need to establish partnerships with new legislators. They also may need to ally with new partners if they find themselves in a different district.
For school districts, these boundary adjustments could create more work but also more opportunity.