This last week, the Oregon Legislature released their proposals for redistricting in the state, and the stakes have never been higher. This redistricting process follows on the heels of the 2020 census and will be completed in a special session later this month.
While Oregon agriculture has strong friends in the Legislature on both sides of the aisle, the past several years of rule under the Democrat super majority has taken its toll on our farm and ranch families. Without the proper checks in the system, dozens of policies have passed that have increased costs for Oregon’s producers, with policies that benefit producers becoming increasingly more rare in Salem. As a non-partisan organization, the Oregon Farm Bureau works with both parties in Salem to achieve the best policy outcomes we can for Oregon producers.
The 2021 redistricting process has the potential to make that job exponentially harder. Rural voices were already diluted in the 2010 redistricting process. We cannot afford to allow partisanship to further reduce our voice in the Legislature. Countless farm and ranch families are barely hanging on. Adopting new districts that will disenfranchise farmers and ranchers and further encourage policies that only harm rural communities will be the last straw for many ag and rural families.
Each party has released its own proposals for redistricting. To put it plainly, the proposals put forward by the Democrat majority represent gerrymandering by every metric. Across the state, the Democrat proposal seeks to cement their super majority by ensuring that many rural parts of the state are likely to be represented by urban Democrats, diluting the voice of rural Oregon in shaping policy.
The Legislature is under a court-ordered deadline to complete redistricting by Sept. 27, or the task will fall to Secretary of State Shemia Fagan. The 2020 census data has shown Oregon is entitled to a 6th Congressional seat, and Oregon’s House and Senate boundaries will also need to be adjusted as Oregon’s population has shifted. The stakes have never been higher.
Oregonians across the state expect maps to be drawn fairly and in a compact manner, with communities of common interest like school districts and neighborhoods left intact. We must ensure that farm and ranch families are kept in districts where their voices are collectively strong and represented, not more dispersed by drawing them into districts with higher population density and different needs and perspectives.
The Oregon Farm Bureau was part of a broad coalition to run a ballot measure last year to ensure the Oregon had a truly independent redistricting commission. With COVID restrictions, that measure did not make it on the ballot, but we will continue to push for meaningful reform of Oregon’s redistricting process.
In the meantime, we need rural Oregon to show up and make your voice heard! There is still a chance to influence the process, and a strong turnout will both show the Legislature that rural Oregon is not going to be disenfranchised without a fight and increase the chances of successfully fighting indefensible boundaries in court. There are hearings taking place over the next two weeks, and you can write in before Sept. 21.
Who represents you in Salem has never been more important for the future of agriculture in Oregon. If you do anything this week, please find a way to make your voice heard and stand up for the rights of rural Oregon. Visit OregonFB.org/advocacy to take action on redistricting today!