For the second straight decennial redistricting cycle, the Pacific Northwest appears set to gain a new congressional district, which will slightly increase the region’s clout in the United States House of Representatives beginning in January of 2023.
The United States Census Bureau revealed today that Oregon has experienced population growth sufficient to merit the allocation of a sixth congressional district, one more than the five it currently has.
Montana will also gain a United States House seat, which will mean it will have districts instead of having an at-large representative as it has for decades.
That would result in an eighteen-member House delegation for the region in the 118th Congress. For at least ten years, the U.S. House would then include ten members from Washington, six from Oregon, and two from Idaho.
Republicans would very much like for this new district to be friendly turf.
Oregon’s current delegation to Congress consists of four Democratic United States Representatives and two Democratic United States Senators.
Of the state’s current five district map, only one district is represented by a Republican: the 2nd, which is a solidly Republican district spanning eastern and central Oregon. It is far and away the largest congressional district by size in the entire Pacific Northwest, with a land area of 179,856.98 kilometers.
It’s also the second largest by size in the entire country, after New Mexico’s 2nd District, not counting four of the five states that are too small to have multiple House districts, and thus have at-large United States Representatives.
Oregon Democrats have agreed to allow the commission that draws the 2022–2030 maps to be split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, giving the Party of Trump more of a say in where the boundaries go.
Washington State has been using a bipartisan commission system for decades, but this year’s commission will have the same number of congressional districts to work with that the previous commission had, instead of a new one like Oregon.
Washington gained a tenth congressional district following the 2010 census; that district currently is located in Washington State’s South Sound region and is represented by Marilyn Strickland, Denny Heck’s successor. (Heck is now Washington State’s Lieutenant Governor.)
“It is exciting that we will gain an additional seat in Congress and Oregonians’ voices will be better represented in Washington D.C.,” Democratic State Senator Kathleen Taylor said in remarks reported by The Associated Press.
Taylor serves as the Oregon State Senate’s Redistricting Chair.
Oregon Democrats naturally want a map that gives them five winnable districts, which would allow the Beaver State to help sustain the House’s current Democratic majority in the 2022 midterms. The party reached out quickly to its supporters with an urgent fundraising appeal, explaining:
The stakes of the 2022 midterm elections just got even higher.
After the Census Bureau completes the census every ten years, they use the results to re-calculate how many Congressional Districts each state is entitled to. Today, we learned that Oregon will be gaining a new Congressional District for the first time in nearly forty years!
This is a huge opportunity for Oregonians to elect another Democrat to our Congressional Delegation – but we know national Republicans will throw everything they can at the race for Oregon’s new Sixth District while trying to flip at least one or more of our current Democratic seats.
It won’t be an easy task, but we know that so much is possible with Oregon Democrats like you by our side. Will you donate to the Democratic Party of Oregon and help elect Democrats to Oregon’s soon-to-be six-person Congressional Delegation?
It is unlikely that either of Idaho’s congressional districts will be competitive in 2022, and Washington seems likely to have at most one or two competitively drawn districts. Therefore, Oregon will present Democrats in the Pacific Northwest with the best opportunity for picking up a seat. Excluding Alaska and Montana, the region’s current districts could be characterized as falling into four buckets:
Utterly Democratic (CPVI above ten for D’s)
- Washington’s 2nd
- Washington’s 7th
- Washington’s 9th
- Oregon’s 1st
- Oregon’s 3rd
Reliably Democratic (Favorable CPVI for D’s, but below ten)
- Washington’s 1st
- Washington’s 6th
- Washington’s 10th
Swing/Competitive (CPVI of five or less)
- Washington’s 8th (Democratic representation)
- Washington’s 3rd (Republican representation)
- Oregon’s 4th (Democratic representation)
- Oregon’s 5th (Democratic representation)
Solidly Republican (Favorable CPVI for R’s of more than five)
- Oregon’s 2nd
- Washington’s 4th
- Washington’s 5th
- Idaho’s 1st
- Idaho’s 2nd
As mentioned above, it’s unlikely that any changes to Idaho’s map will yield a district that Democrats could win (although it’s not totally out the realm of possibility; Democrats did capture Idaho’s 1st as recently as 2008.)
However, the manner in which Oregon and Washington’s maps are drawn will matter a great deal. The optimal configuration for Democrats would probably be a map with thirteen winnable districts: eight in Washington and five in Oregon.
For Republicans, the optimal configuration is probably a map with eight winnable districts: four in Washington, two in Oregon, and then both of Idaho’s.
This is a really big political development for Oregon, considering that the state hasn’t gotten a new seat in Congress in four decades.
For Montana, gaining back the seat lost in the 1990 reapportionment is also a big deal. Here’s the backstory on that, courtesy of Wikipedia:
From statehood in 1889, until the creation of geographic districts in 1919, Montana was represented in the United States House of Representatives by members elected at-large, that is, requiring voting by all the state population.
From 1913 to 1919, there were two seats, still elected at-large; the top two finishers were awarded the seats. After that time, two representatives were elected from two geographic districts of roughly equal population, from the east and the west of the state.
In the reapportionment following the 1990 census, Montana lost one of its two seats. Its remaining member was again elected at-large.
Beginning in the 2022 midterms, every state in the greater Pacific Northwest will have districts except for Alaska. The five states (meaning, the three core Pacific Northwest states plus Montana and Alaska) will send a total of thirty-one people to the United States Congress: twenty-one representatives and ten senators.
We will have additional commentary and analysis on what this consequential reapportionment means for our region in the weeks to come.