In Short

Oregon Supreme Court won’t hear redistricting arguments

By: - November 17, 2021 11:17 am
Oregon House

A sign outside of the House chambers at the Oregon State Capitol. (Amanda Loman/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

Two separate groups of Oregon voters seeking to invalidate all or part of new legislative maps won’t get their day in court.

In an order Tuesday, Oregon Supreme Court Justice Lynn Nakamoto wrote that the court will combine two lawsuits over the new districts drawn by the Legislature in September. The court will decide the resulting case based on legal submissions without hearing oral arguments, Nakamoto wrote.

The first suit, filed by a former Republican state representative on behalf of two rural Lane County men, seeks only to change the boundaries of two state House districts. That complaint included a declaration from state Rep. Marty Wilde, D-Eugene, who said his voting precinct was removed with “near-surgical precision” from a Eugene House district after he criticized the Legislature’s redistricting process and informed two state senators that he planned to run for the Senate in 2022.

Wilde’s Eugene precinct is now in a largely rural House district where voter registration favors Republicans. The plaintiffs, David Calderwood and Gordon Culbertson, said in court documents that their rural district has little in common with Eugene, and Wilde’s neighborhood should be in a different district. 

The second lawsuit, filed by former state Rep. Patrick Sheehan, R-Portland, and Clackamas County attorney Samantha Hazel, asks the court to tear up the Legislature’s redrawn state House and Senate maps and replace them with a more competitive plan drawn by Republican political strategist Rebecca Tweed. Tweed submitted her plan to the Legislature on Sept. 9, but it was not considered.

Both sets of plaintiffs argued that the Legislature broke state laws that prohibit the Legislature and the secretary of state from drawing districts to benefit a political party, incumbent legislator or other individual. In response, attorneys with the Oregon Department of Justice wrote that the Legislature doesn’t have to follow that law, because the more recent law creating the new legislative districts supersedes it. 

“A court cannot invalidate a duly enacted statute based on (the) legislature’s failure to comply with another statute,” the state’s attorneys wrote. “When two statutes conflict irreconcilably, the more recently enacted statute implicitly supersedes the earlier one.”

A separate challenge to Oregon’s new congressional districts is expected to be resolved by next week, following oral arguments before a panel of five retired circuit court judges on Tuesday. 

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Julia Shumway
Julia Shumway

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.

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