Democrats draw a dinosaur

If nothing else, the proposed 3rd Congressional District map drawn by Democrats in the Legislature is a fun Rorschach test. Is it shaped like the Big Dipper? Or a brontosaurus, its long neck stretching all the way from downtown Portland to Rainier?

Whatever it is, don't take it seriously. Congressional districts are supposed to tie "communities of interest." However, Democrats seeking to wring all the advantage they can from heavily blue Multnomah County have carved three different districts out of the Portland area while trying to bend Cascade Locks, downtown Portland, St. Helens and other towns along the Columbia River into a community of interest. That won't pass the laugh test, not even with Earl Blumenauer, the Democrat who's long held the 3rd District seat.

Oregonians ought to be disappointed but not surprised by the opening gambits of Democrats and Republicans represented on the Legislature's redistricting committees. While a lot of work has gone into these first legislative and congressional maps — which will be discussed at public hearings — parts of them are overtly and crudely partisan.

While the Democrats were carefully scattering their voters across the 1st, 3rd and 5th congressional districts, Republicans were drafting a legislative map that would shove eight incumbents together into four districts. Of course, any redistricting plan is bound to throw some incumbents together. Here's what's striking about the Republican plan: All eight of the incumbents forced to run against one another would be Democrats. Go figure.

That's the kind of bald partisanship that has prevented the Legislature from successfully reapportioning Oregon's legislative and congressional seats since the end of World War II. Supposedly, this Legislature, which is almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, was going to be different. Because neither party had a partisan advantage, the thinking went, lawmakers would be more willing to work out fair compromises as they went about the process of choosing their voters.

We understand these maps are opening salvos, and that compromises are still possible with more than six weeks remaining until the Legislature's June 30 deadline. But we're not especially encouraged by what we've seen and heard so far.

The Democrats' congressional map is absurd, and the Republicans' legislative proposal is a nonstarter. If lawmakers don't roll up their sleeves and make changes, the responsibility for legislative redistricting will go, yet again, to the secretary of state, in this case Democrat Kate Brown. And federal judges will make the final call on the congressional map.

That may be inevitable, as it's been a long, long while since Oregon lawmakers have gotten beyond their parties' self-interest and agreed on a legally defensible plan to redraw the state's political boundaries.

But we keep hearing that this is the Legislature with the leadership and bipartisan spirit to do its constitutional duty. So far, it doesn't look that way.

In fact, it looks like a brontosaurus.

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