Oregon Supreme Court sides with Legislature over redistricting deadline extension

Civic Affairs

FILE – This March 19, 2020, file photo, shows a 2020 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Supreme Court has sided with state lawmakers in extending a deadline for completing state legislative redistricting to the end of September.

The new deadline, which was requested by a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the legislative redistricting committees, allows the Oregon Legislature to wait for the release of the 2020 Census data as state lawmakers tackle the redistricting process.

Under the current state statute, the redistricting deadline for the Oregon Legislature is July 1; otherwise, it falls to the Secretary of State’s office, according to the Oregon Constitution. However, U.S. Census data is not expected to be delivered to states until mid-to-late August due to delays amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our agency’s core objectives were to prevent moving the 2022 election dates and to preserve robust public input by starting the process with available population data,” Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said in a statement Friday morning. “We appreciate that the Oregon Supreme Court thoughtfully adopted both of our objectives. Representation matters and that is what redistricting is all about.”

A petition for the decision was filed by Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek, both Democrats, on March 10.

Republicans in the Oregon Legislature hailed the Oregon Supreme Court decision.

“We have had a good working relationship among the Senate members of the committee,” Bend Republican Sen. Tim Knopp, vice-chair of the Redistricting Committee, said in a statement. “Election integrity and fair districts live to fight another day because of this decision. It ensures that we can continue to work together to ensure that Oregonians can pick their representatives fairly.”

Democratic lawmakers also expressed gratitude for the ruling.

“Working with precise information is critical to ensuring Oregon’s BIPOC communities and other communities of interest are accurately represented and respected as the Legislature draws new legislative districts,” Lake Oswego Democrat Rep. Andrea Salinas, chair of the House Special Committee on Redistricting and member of the BIPOC Caucus, said in a statement. “The legislative redistricting committees have received incredible public input from across the state during our hearings over the last month. This feedback will be critical as we await the release of Census data.”

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