In an effort not to disenfranchise Columbia County voters, the Columbia County Board of Commissioners has outlined its concerns about Oregon's redistricting efforts in a letter to the Oregon Legislature's Redistricting Committee.

The three commissioners will decide during the board's regular Wednesday public meeting, Sept. 22, whether to ratify the letter voicing their concerns.

Redistricting Concerns

The commissioners are urging the Oregon Legislature's Redistricting Committee not to disenfranchise Columbia County's currently underrepresented non-urban citizens by combining their districts with a dense urban presence.

The proposed letter is attached and also available on the county's website.

"The communities within Columbia County are close-knit and deserve representation by those who understand our local economy, the issues that are important to our local business, and the common interests and challenges that our rural citizens face," the letter reads. "We urge you not to disenfranchise our currently underrepresented non-urban citizens by combining their districts with a dense urban presence. Columbia County's citizens would find their voices diluted, and that would simply be unfair."

The board of commissions letter also lists the following specific details in the letter to the committee about the redistricting.

ORS 188.010 requires that the criteria for appointment of the state into congressional and legislative districts meet the following criteria:.

  • Be contiguous
  • Be of equal population
  • Utilize existing geographic or political boundaries
  • Not divide communities of common interest
  • Be connected by transportation links.
  • That no district shall be drawn for the purpose of favoring any political party, incumbent legislator, or other person.

"Having studied the maps that are before the committee, we see that some of these criteria are not met," the letter states.

The commissioners added the following proposals.

House Maps

All of the Legislative House maps presented propose various forms of dividing Columbia County into several districts. This would create management and advocacy issues by unnecessarily separaiing our various schools, service districts, and cities. House maps A, B, and C all violate the constitutional guidelines by dividing the county, communities of interest, and transportation arteries. plan C would be acceptable if revised to contain all of Columbia County.

Senate Maps

The Senate District maps provide additional issues of splitting Columbia County. We recommend that Senate District Plan C be redrawn to remove the current portions of Washington and Multnomah counties while keeping Columbia, Clatsop, and Tillamook counties intact. lf this is not an option, then Plan A would be an alternative.

Congressional Maps

Plan A proposal will effectively disenfranchise District 1 voters in Columbia County because of the current population and geographical makeup of Congressional District 1. These voters do not share the same communities of interest as their urban and suburban neighbors.

Congressional Map B does a far better job of assuring a voice for rural citizens, placing Columbia County in District 5 with our more pastoral, neighboring counties. This more closely m6ets the Constitutional guidelines of keeping counties intact and maintaining communities of interest.

In their letter, the commissioners are urging the adoption of Congressional Plan B.

"We urge the amendments suggested above, for Plan C proposals for both the House and the Senate Districts, which keep Columbia County whole and preserve our communities of interest and transportation arteries," the proposal letter states. "These adoptions will enable the citizens of rural Oregon to maintain our identity and way of life."

The Columbia County Board of Commissioners, consisting of commission chair Margaret Magruder and members Casey Garrett and Henry Heimuller, are scheduled to decide whether to ratify the letter or not at the 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22 public meeting.

Gov. Kate Brown has called for a special session of the Oregon Legislature to take up the redistricting efforts. That special session is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Monday, Sept. 20 in Salem.

View the Oregon Legislature's Redistricting Committee information and maps at: www.oregonlegislature.gov/redistricting

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