Oregon approves the nation's first new congressional map

Oregon approves the nation's first new congressional map. The Oregon State flag is pictured here at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Oregon on September 20.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Following September's contentious redistricting special session in the Oregon Legislature, a judicial panel on Wednesday unanimously dismissed a challenge to new congressional maps pushed through by state Democrats.

Despite accusations by Republicans, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the five-judge panel found no evidence of gerrymandering while creating the maps — the illegal manipulation of electoral district boundaries to win an unfair political advantage.

“Ultimately, the extensive record in this case establishes that, far from being motivated by partisan purpose, the Legislative Assembly drew the enacted map based on public input and neutral criteria—resulting in a fair map that was not drawn for a partisan purpose,” the panel wrote in its opinion.

However, the panel's ruling is not the final word.

Former Republican Secretary of State Bev Clarno and three other challengers have the option of appealing the matter to the Oregon Supreme Court.

The decennial redistricting process in Oregon was marked by a broken deal, a Republican walkout and accusations of “cheating” that have reignited tensions on the state House floor.

Stakes were high for both the GOP and and Democrats during this redistricting year. Following population growth in Oregon, the state gained a sixth U.S. House seat — increasing the Pacific Northwest state’s national political clout.

The new congressional maps — which was passed by Democrats, who hold the majority in both the state House and Senate — include four U.S. House seats that either are safe Democratic or lean in the party’s favor, one reliably red seat and one seat that could be a toss-up. Republicans believe the proposed boundaries will likely result in the Democrats obtaining five of the U.S. House seats to the GOP’s one.

In addition, lawmakers passed 90 state legislative district boundaries — which will also likely enable Democrats to continue to hold majorities in the House and Senate.

On Monday, the Oregon Supreme Court dismissed two challenges filed by Republicans to the new state legislative districts. In its ruling the Supreme Court said the GOP failed to show that the new districts violated state law.

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