How redistricting is changing the legislative map in Southern Oregon

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – State legislators beat their deadline on Monday approving both new congressional and legislative maps. But Oregon Republicans said Democrats crossed the line creating the maps in favor of their party. A claim some democrats dispute.

“Klamath County isn’t really Southern Oregon, isn’t really Central Oregon, and it’s not really Eastern Oregon. It’s kind of its own unique place. Keeping that community together would have been the right thing to do,” said State Rep. E. Werner Reschke.

From a distance, it may not be much of a change with Oregon’s House District map. But if people take a closer look, that’s far from the truth in Klamath County. State Representative Reschke’s district used to encompass the City of Klamath Falls. Now the city’s being split up. Something Reschke is not happy with.

“[The representative for] western Klamath and east Jackson County is from Jackson County. Now I’m going to have to work with somebody who doesn’t understand any of the water issues, any of the issues in Klamath Falls. It makes it a lot more difficult,” said State Rep. Reschke.

Residents in his county aren’t the only ones seeing changes, Josephine County is too though the changes there are less dramatic.

“Josephine County has been a hub of 4 different legislative seats on the house and 2 senate districts for the last 20 years,” said State Rep. Lily Morgan, “The changes of the new map shrink that down to just Representative Stark and [me]”.

First-term State Rep. Lily Morgan said that will lead to less representation in Salem.

“Tell me that a portion of Grants Pass is gonna feel like they’ve been heard when they’re competing with a suburb of Medford and a suburb of Roseburg,” said State Rep. Morgan.

The move she says only hurts Josephine County voters as their votes will now be combined with neighboring districts in Southern Oregon. The redistricting maps, and the bills that create them, were signed by Gov. Kate Brown Monday.

What’s the future of redistricting in Oregon? Some Democrats have joined Republicans in their stance against the political nature of the redistricting process. Ashland Democratic State Senator Jeff Golden thinks the way the process is being done is wrong. Monday he urged other political leaders to take steps toward having an independent commission decide on how Oregon handles redistricting in the future. That’s something he said 14 other states are already doing.

“It doesn’t matter how many of us believe that we’re not significantly swayed by political or partition interests. The fact is Oregonians do not believe that,” said State Sen. Golden.

Oregon only looks at redistricting every 10 years, so there’s time to enact change before the process begins again. But there is talk of a bi-partisan campaign to get it on the ballot next year.

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