With the release of 2020 Census data earlier this year, politicians around the country are mapping out the future of voting districts.
And while most of the attention is on Congressional and state legislative maps, thousands of local governments around the country are also re-drawing their district boundaries – including Metro.
The Metro Council has less than two months to draw new boundaries for the six Metro Council districts, so that each district has roughly the same number of people living inside the district. In the last decade, each council district grew by an average of 30,000 residents, to an average population of 278,600.
But in that timeframe, District 1 – eastern Multnomah and Clackamas counties – grew by only 15,000 residents, to a population of 255,353, so District 1 would need to add residents to balance out population among the districts. District 4, in northern Washington County, grew by more than 40,000 people and had 297,578 residents, according to the Census Bureau, far above that average population of 278,600.
Because they’re on opposite ends of the region, that means that the other four district maps will also be in play, even though 3 of the districts are less than 500 residents off the average.
As the only elected regional government, the Metro Council has six councilors who represent districts around the region, plus a council president who is elected to represent all 1.7 million people within Metro. The council gets to decide how to re-draw the districts, with the only requirement being that the districts stay roughly equal in population, but the council’s Thursday vote proposes to give them up to 5 percent flexibility in the per-district number.
But the council can create criteria for deciding how to draw new district maps. On Oct. 21, the council is scheduled to vote on a list of “communities of common interest” to keep together when drawing those maps.
- Cities with fewer than 20,000 residents (10 of the region’s 24 cities, making up 65,000 of the region’s 1.7 million people)
- School districts
- Compact minority or underrepresented communities
- Corridors identified in the 2040 Growth Plan or corridors of regional significance in the Regional Transportation Plan
- Federally recognized transit districts
- Regional centers, town centers and investment areas identified in the 2040 Growth Plan
- Established neighborhood associations and community planning and participation organizations.
The public can offer feedback on that proposed definition of communities of common interest at the Oct. 21 Metro Council meeting. The council will later take feedback on how those criteria should be prioritized, with public comment on that extending through Oct. 29.
If the council approves that definition, up to four proposed council district maps will be released for public comment before Thanksgiving. That will give the council time to have a first reading of its district boundaries at its Nov. 30 meeting.