Boundary-Drawing by Portland’s Independent Districting Commission
We all know of that person who illegitimately went looking for “11,000” votes in Georgia during the 2020 election. What if a city government needed to find 20,000 votes for a legitimate reason?
A bedrock principal of our democracy is one person, one vote, where all voting districts need to be of approximately equal population size. From the approved ballot initiative in 2020, the new Portland government divides the city into four voting districts. The job of the citizen-based Independent Districting Commission (IDC), which completed its work in August 2023, was to divide the city into four equal-sized voting districts.
Many Portlanders see the Willamette River as more than a physical divide. The myth persists that the east side is working class, blue collar people, and the west is professional class and the city power brokers. That may have been true 75 years ago. The city has changed. And, even if this is slightly true, the new four multi-member voting districts that represent people equally across the entire city challenge that notion.
The west side of the Willamette River was short 20,000 votes. Where to find 20,000 votes to make four equal-sized districts? The IDC set to work with a voter-approved August deadline to divide up the city. They thoughtfully and carefully considered many variables from historical alliances, neighborhood associations, demographics, and more. The final decision was to add a cluster of east side neighborhoods- Sellwood, Westmoreland, Reed neighborhood, and Eastmoreland- to voting district #4, that includes all of Portland on the west side of the river.
This is a good decision for two main reasonsThe first reason is that these particular east side neighborhoods are contiguous with the west and match the characteristics of much of the west side.
- Both have small liberal arts colleges: Reed and Lewis and Clark Colleges
- Both have vibrant commercial districts. Word has it that Multnomah Village calls Sellwood, its “sister city”.
- Both have many homes owned with stable populations.
- Both have houses that cost over $1 million dollars.
- Both have concerns about the railroad.
- And last, but not least, this particular section of the east side votes. In 2022, the 82% of Sellwood, Westmoreland, Eastmoreland, and Reed residents voted. Any west side politician will need to listen to and pay attention to that powerful voting bloc.
The second reason is that one of the IDC’s proposed maps (called Maple) would have taken a pie slice out of the east from I-84 south along I-5. That would have significant consequences for the management of downtown. From the Maple map, downtown including both sides of the river would have only two voting district voices managing its future, District 4 (west side) and District 2 (convention center area). With the Alder map , the representatives from three voting districts will have to collaborate to improve our downtown, Districts 2 (convention center area), 3 (OMSI development) and 4 (downtown). More voices, more diversity, more creative solutions, and more opportunities to once again and into the future have a vibrant Portland on both sides of the river!
Here is a rundown of the four new Portland districts:
- District 1: East of 205… District 47, 48, Parts of 45, 46
- District 2: North to downtown… District 43, 45, 44
- District 3: Inner southeast side below 84…Districts 42, Parts of 45, 46, 41
- District 4: West & Sellwood, Eastmoreland, Reed… Districts 33, 34, 28, 38, 41