By J.L. Wilson
Associated Oregon Industries 
Oregon’s largest business advocate
Associated Oregon Industries announced this week that it will formally support Initiative Petition 50, a constitutional measure which will change the way that legislative districts are drawn.
After the 2010 Census, Oregon lawmakers will be tasked with re-drawing the boundaries for Oregon’s legislative districts. Redistricting may sound boring, but it will be the single, most pivotal event in Oregon politics for the next 10 years.
Redistricting is supposed to allow legislative district boundaries to be redrawn in order to account for changes in a state’s population. This is supposed to be a non-partisan process that ensures that districts are drawn as fairly as possible. But because legislative districts are currently drawn by legislators themselves, this creates a conflict of interest. Instead of drawing legislative districts fairly, politicians draw districts to guarantee their re-election, and the election of their fellow party members.
Initiative Petition 50, if passed by voters, is a constitutional amendment that would take authority for legislative redistricting away from the legislature and Secretary of State and create a panel of retired circuit judges to draw legislative districts. The ballot title has been approved by the Oregon Supreme Court and the Secretary of State’s office has approved the petition. Signature gathering for the measure is now underway. In order to qualify for the November 2010 ballot, AOI and others must help collect over 110,000 valid signatures by July 2, 2010.
Reasons to Support
The AOI Board of Directors voted unanimously to support Initiative Petition 50 for several reasons.
Having retired judges perform the duties of redistricting would prevent politicized future redistricting efforts that may put business interests at a competitive disadvantage. The process proposed by Initiative Petition 50 is not only fair, it is a process that would not be tainted by political power and the redistricting duties would be performed by a panel of judges already well acquainted with election laws.
Giving this essential responsibility to a neutral body is not a partisan issue – it is a fairness and impartiality issue. Without Initiative 50, a dominant political party can re-draw legislative boundaries for its own benefit to ensure continued political power.
These types of “good government” measures are gaining traction nationwide. California voters passed a similar non-partisan re-districting commission in 2008 despite heavy opposition from public employee unions.
Signature Petitions Available
Signature petitions for Initiative Petition 50 are now online. Single signature, postage-paid, self-mailing petitions – along with helpful information about Initiative Petition 50 – can be found at www.petition50.com .