The Oregon legislature is currently taking on the enormous task of redistricting. This happens once every 10 years and coincides with census data. This year is a bit different because census data is not planned to be compiled until after the deadline of redistricting here in Oregon. So the question then becomes, how can this process be done fairly and accurately so as to not marginalize or silence the voices of so many? The answer is that it truly needs to be done by an independent commission, not politicians.
So why as a rural Oregonian do I even care about district lines? To answer that question you will have to check back with my last blog. A few weeks ago I wrote about a terrible experience where my rural voice was marginalized to about half the weight of those who were speaking in opposition to my testimony. I know I’m in the minority in many situations, but does that give my voice less importance than anyone else’s? It certainly shouldn’t. And yet I am supposed to sit back while our voice gets cut up into tiny pieces along district lines, just so this can continue?
When you break it down, you can’t deny the fact that rural voices are being marginalized. And this isn’t the first or the last time this will happen, we need to do better, Oregon needs to do better. Which is why I still showed up, just a few hours after being silenced, to testify yet again and try to be heard.
In listening to testimony on the issue of redistricting, I have heard people question the term rural and question MY identity. This is wrong, and it’s offensive.
Did you know…
**25 of Oregon’s 36 counties are categorized as “non-metro” rural, meaning they have no communities of 40,000 or more residents.
**Ten of those counties have population density of less than 6 people per square mile.
**Even Oregon’s most populous counties have many rural and agriculture-dependent residents.
**The lower population of these communities makes them more vulnerable to gerrymandering, where districts are drawn to dilute the voice of these rural citizens.
As a farmer, I know when something doesn’t work. When it doesn’t work, we must change the process. Having legislators choose their electorate is innately a conflict of interest – perhaps the greatest conflict of interest. Seeing how the committees are split up with majority Democrats, knowing the Democrats have control of the Secretary of State and the Governor’s office, I can only believe those that hold all the power want to keep that power, and will draw the lines accordingly. I also can’t help but notice both chairs (Rep. Taylor & Rep. Salinas) of the committee formed for this project are from the greater Portland metro area. I have spent enough time in the Capitol and advocating for the agricultural community to know how “understanding” Portland legislators are of communities outside Portland. In fairness I would also guess that I don’t understand a lot of what needs there are to be determined within the metro area either.
In listening to public testimony over the past multiple weeks, the overwhelming ask is to move this responsibility out of the hands of partisan politicians and into an independent nonpartisan commission and I completely agree.
We know how partisan and divided our state and country is. There is an opportunity to choose people over political power, and ultimately choose what is best for Oregon. The current political situation we find ourselves in makes it difficult, maybe impossible, to achieve fairness without political gerrymandering. Rural district boundaries have been superseded and overshadowed by larger metro areas, and because of this, has diluted voices just like mine.