Legislative Districts of Senators – Oregon 2017 HJR6 Testimony

To: House Committee on Rules, Oregon Legislative Assembly

Re: HJR6 Proposes amendment to Oregon Constitution to increase number of Senators serving in Legislative Assembly to 36 and modifying Senate legislative districts to be coterminous with county boundaries.

The provision in HJR6 that states “The county from which a Senator is elected shall constitute the legislative district of the Senator” is contrary to the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.

Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964) ruled:

By holding that, as a federal constitutional requisite, both houses of a state legislature must be apportioned on a population basis, we mean that the Equal Protection Clause requires that a State make an honest and good faith effort to construct districts, in both houses of its legislature, as nearly of equal population as is practicable. (page 577)

Whatever the means of accomplishment, the overriding objective must be substantial equality of population among the various districts, so that the vote of any citizen is approximately equal in weight to that of any other citizen in the State. (page 579)

Changing the apportionment of the Oregon State Senate to one senator per county would create a malapportionment ratio between Multnomah County and Wheeler County of 581 using figures from the 2010 Census. This enormous population inequality and unequal weighting of votes among senate districts would not comply with U.S. Supreme Court precedent set in Reynolds, which has not been overturned.