By JEFF ST. PETER
Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, a Democrat, has come under fire from members of both of the states leading political parties after proposing legislative redistricting as mandated by the states constitution.
The Oregon State Constitution requires that the states legislative districts be corrected after each U.S. Census so the districts comply with the constitution and state statute.
With the completion of the 2000 census, the Legislature set about the task of redrawing the district lines during its 2001 regular session.
A Republican version of the redistricting plan passed the GOP-controlled House and Senate and was sent to Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber for his signature.
When Kitzhaber vetoed the Republican-sponsored redistricting legislation on June 28, Bradbury had to step into the gap and come up with a plan.
Article IV, Section 6, of the Oregon State Constitution states that if the Legislative Assembly fails to enact any reapportionment by July 1 of the year of the regular session . . .The Secretary of State shall make a reapportionment of the Senators and Representatives...
The reapportionment so made shall be filed with the Supreme Court by Aug. 15 of the same year.
On July 16, Bradbury released his draft redistricting plan, stating he had given it his best effort.
I have literally been working around the clock since July 1 to complete the huge task of reviewing the public record and drawing lines in order to complete the draft, he said. This is the best possible draft plan I could create in 15 very short days.
Bradbury emphasized that his plan did not take into consideration party politics.
I am the secretary of state, first, and a Democrat, second, he said. When it comes to redistricting, I want to make it very clear that I will not be a partisan.
My responsibility in this process is to all citizens of Oregon.
This plan doesnt look like the Democratic plan, this plan doesnt look like the Republican plan. This is Bill Bradburys plan.
Almost immediately, Bradburys plan came under fire.
Not surprisingly, Republicans accused the secretary of state of partisanship. But he was not spared the ire of his own party leadership either.
House Majority Leader Karen Minnis, R-Wood Village, expressed relief that Bradburys plan wasnt finalized.
I was happy to hear the secretary of state say that this is truly a draft plan, she said, and that it would be changed.
Rep. Jackie Winters, R-Salem, said Bradburys intent was obvious. She accused him of intentionally drawing legislative district lines to impact next years elections.
They played a game of who they thought would have to be running against whom, she said.
Dan Estes, political director for the Oregon Republican Party, said the plan was strictly a political effort.
Its blatantly partisan, he said. It looks like Bradbury has pushed as much of a Democratic advantage as possible.
House Minority Leader Dan Gardner, D-Portland, wasnt pleased with Bradburys plan either.
Were still looking it over, he said, but its awful, radically different than either (legislative) plan.
I think theres an awful lot of problems with it. Its a very strange looking configuration.
In order to gain public input, as required by the state constitution, Bradbury scheduled 21 hearings across the state, including one in North Bend Thursday evening (see story on page 1A).
The public hearings began July 12 in Salem and concluded Friday in Klamath Falls.
Bradbury now returns to his office in Salem to review the record of public comment and make any changes to his draft plan he deems necessary.
The final redistricting plan must be filed with the Oregon Supreme Court by Aug. 15, according to the state constitution.
The court will hold original jurisdiction over the plan until Sept. 15. Any state elector can file a petition requesting the court to review the plan until that date.
According to the constitution, once the Sept. 15 deadline is met, the court will do one of two things:
If the Supreme Court determines that the reapportionment thus reviewed complies with (the constitution and statute), it shall dismiss the petition by written opinion on or before Oct. 15 of the same year and the reapportionment shall become operative Oct. 15.
If the Supreme Court determines that the reapportionment does not comply with (the constitution and statute), the reapportionment shall be void. The Supreme Court shall return the reapportionment to the secretary of state accompanied by a written opinion specifying with particularity wherein the reapportionment fails to comply. The opinion shall further direct the secretary of state to correct the reapportionment in those particulars, and in no others, and file the corrected reapportionment with the Supreme Court on or before Dec. 1 of the same year.
After final review by the court, the redistricting plan would come into effect Dec. 15.
As of late Friday afternoon, Bradbury had made no public statement concerning his agenda following the conclusion of the public hearings.