Difference between revisions of "Redistricting in Washington"

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The Washington State Redistricting Commission is responsible for redistricting. Washington's redistricting program was formed, in mid 2007, by the [[Secretary of State of Washington|Secretary of State's office]] and transferred to the legislative branch in preparation of redistricting in 2011.<ref>[http://masoncountydailynews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1402:redistricting-in-wa&catid=69:features ''Mason County Daily News'', "Redistricting in WA", accessed February 25, 2011]</ref> The redistricting commission is comprised of five members, chosen by the following:
The Washington State Redistricting Commission is responsible for redistricting. The redistricting commission is comprised of five members, chosen by the following:
*1 Appointed by the Majority Leader of the [[Washington House of Representatives|House]]
*1 Appointed by the Majority Leader of the [[Washington House of Representatives|House]]

Revision as of 16:00, 17 June 2011

Redistricting in Washington
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General information
Partisan control:
Washington State Redistricting Commission
January 1, 2012
Total seats
State Senate:
State House:
Redistricting in other states
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Redistricting on PolicypediaState legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 CensusState-by-state redistricting procedures

This page is about redistricting in Washington. The state grew 14.1% percent from 2000 to 2010 and distinguished itself as the only solidly Democratic state to gain a Congressional district.[1]

Figure 1: This map shows the Washington Congressional Districts after the 2000 census.


The Washington State Redistricting Commission is responsible for redistricting. The redistricting commission is comprised of five members, chosen by the following:

  • 1 Appointed by the Majority Leader of the House
  • 1 Appointed by the Minority Leader of the House
  • 1 Appointed by the Majority Leader of the Senate
  • 1 Appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate

These four members select a fifth non-voting member who acts as chair. If a fifth member cannot be selected, then the Washington Supreme Court selects a member. The process became law in 1983, prior to which Washington's redistricting was legislatively controlled. In 2011, the voting members were sworn in on January 18, 2011 and had until the end of the month to select the final member.[2][3]

In Washington, plans don't require gubernatorial approval and a two-third legislative majority is all that is required to make minor changes.


Washington state Democrats selected their delegates by the end of December 2010, naming Tim Ceis, a one-time deputy mayor of Seattle, along with Dean Foster, who had previously been a Chief Clerk of the Washington House of Representatives and a gubernatorial chief of staff.[4]

Republicans made their announcements early in the new year, sending Slade Gorton, a former U.S. Senator, and Tom Huff, who once represented Gig Habor at the state level, to the panel.[5] The inclusion of Gorton, who was involved in the 1961 redistricting at the dawn of his political career, meant the panel would have a voice to represent the days before redistricting was officially bipartisan.[6]

Commission members

Joint Senate-House news conference announcing picks for the redistricting commission.

For redistricting after the 2010 census, the following members will serve on the Washington State Redistricting Commission:[7]

  • Senate Republican Caucus: Slade Gorton, a former U.S. Senator
  • Senate Democratic Caucus: Tim Ceis, former Deputy Mayor of Seattle
  • House Republican Caucus: Tom Huff, founder of the Washington Retail Association
  • House Democratic Caucus: Dean Foster, former Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives

On January 28, 2011, Lura Powell, of Richmond, was announced as the commission's final member and its chair.[8] Prior to her appointment, Washington's Eastern half had been vocal about their perceived exclusion from the commission so far.[9] Much editorializing had also urged a woman be named to balance out the make-up of the group.

Once selected, Dr. Powell was immediately sworn in by Secretary of State Sam Reed.[10]

In addition the Dr. Powell, who is a non-voting and independent chair, the Commission has an Executive Director. On February 24, 2011, Bonnie Bunning was named to that post. A geologist by training, Bunning has worked in the Washington Department of Natural Resources under both Democratic and Republican administrations.[11]


With the Commission formed and with data in hand, the first hearing was set for March 29, 2011. After that, the Commission Chair, Lura Powell, announced that regular monthly hearings, open to the public, would be held on each second Tuesday, at 10:30 am.[12]

Public hearings were held throughout May, with each meeting running from 6-9 PM.[13] Meeting locales began in the state's west and moved east.[14] In all, 17 hearings were scheduled, all broadcast free online at redistricting.wa.gov:[15]

  • Olympia: Wednesday, May 18[19]
  • Vancouver: Thursday, May 19[20]
  • Everett: Wednesday, May 25[25]
  • Pasco: Tuesday, June 7
  • Yakima: Wednesday, June 8
  • Wenatchee: Thursday, June 9
  • Seattle: Monday, June 13
  • Auburn: Tuesday, June 14
  • Bremmerton: Thursday, June 30
  • Tacoma: Monday, July 11
  • Spokane, Tuesday, July 12
  • Walla Walla, Wednesday, July 13
  • Moses Lake, Thursday, July 14

Census results

The release of detailed Census numbers confirmed what Washingtonians knew; all nine existing Congressional districts would need to shrink not only to accommodate the new 10th Washington district but also to get back to proportionate seats. Some seats were tens of thousands of residents too large; a few were actually more than 100,000 residents too large.[28]

The first look Commission members got at the data indicated the state could be set to have a district that would stretch across the Cascade Mountains and include residents of both the Eastern and Western regions of Washington, something the state has not seen in decades.[29]

Congressional redistricting

2011 overview

Washington went into 2011 with the distinction of being the only true Democratic stronghold to gain a Congressional seat, boosting its Federal delegation to 10.[30] Beginning in 2012, Washington was set to be second in the West in total electoral votes, though still a distant second to California and her 55 votes.[31] Just as quickly as the Census Bureau confirmed the state would pick up a new seat, experts began weighing in on where that district would be sited. With growth occurring mostly in the Western half of the state and with two fastest growing seats in GOP hands, certain trends emerged quickly.[32]

Early favorites were the south Puget Sound region, an area taken up by parts of the 3rd, 8th, and 9th Districts as of 2010. The new 10th District could cut territory from any of those, or from the 2nd; whether the GOP of Dems would ultimately lose safe territory depended heavily on which existing sear gave the most land to the new District. The city of Olympia was a strong contender to be the center of the new 10th Congressional District, as was the suburban sprawl of Vancouver. In 2001, it was indeed Vancouver's immense growth that played a decisive hand in drawing boundaries.[33]

In the ten years since then, Washington's current Congressional Districts grew disproportionately, and while all needed to shed citizens to make equal representation, the 8th, with 137,570 people to trim, was the leader. Currently held by Republican Dave Reichert, the 8th featured a conservative leaning area around Bellevue, bound to be a target on both sides, be it to save the core of a GOP seat or move it into a new District.[34][35]

The newly awarded 10th seat also gave hope to those behind the "Cascade Curtain", a sprawling group of counties, sharing commonalities, that runs down the state's Western shoreline. Prior to 2011, the Curtain was part of the 4th District, and voters therein often complained of having their political wishes overshadowed by Washington's more populous districts.[36]


Figure 2: This map shows the Washington Legislative Districts after the 2000 census.

Once the anticipated new seat was official, two likely layouts came to the forefront of debate. In one, Olympia would essentially anchor the new Congressional District and take much of its population from the southwestern part of the state, carving out a portion of the rapidly expanding 3rd.

The other theory had Bellevue at the center of the 10th, with the current 8th District giving up a chunk of land. Either scenario was likely to cast the redrawn 3rd and 8th seats to the West, where the officeholder would pick up portions of the Yakima Valley. Kirkland, currently split between the 1st and 8th districts, was a candidate to make up part of the new 10th.[37]

Alternately, Thurston County and northeast King County were suggested as hubs of the new 10th District, attractive areas for the purpose as they lack a resident incumbent Congressman.[38]

Knowing the focus would be in the West, both parties named committee members hailing from the Puget Sound area, leading to outcry from Wasington's Eastern area that they were being cut out of the process early on.[39][40] Both the 4th and 5th seats needed to lose thousands of residents, and the possibility that a new seat could stretch over the Cascades became a source of worry. Eastern politicians could face a harder time winning Congressional seats that span the mountains and the particular structuring of such a seat could also worsen the chances for any Democratic candidate.[41]

Early news from the Commission was that Mercer Island would probably remain in the Eastside, rather than being moved into a Seattle district.[42]

At the state level, one of the first key bills filed was Democrat Hans Dunshee's HB 1092, which proposed creating two House seats within each of Washington's 49 legislative districts.[43] What Dunshee touted as a way to cut the size of districts and thereby increase the time legislators' could spend getting to know constituents and their issues was countered by GOP lawmakers who asserted that the current system better serves voters by giving them two voices in the legislature. Overall, HB 1092 looked to have a weak chance of passing.

Dennis Kucinich

With his Ohio seat so redrawn as to make him an endangered Congressman, Dennis Kucinich began floating the idea of moving to Washington and seeking a seat there. The state only requires a candidate for the U.S. House to establish residency 30 days before filing, meaning it would be at least a theoretic possibility.

Were Kucinich to move on the idea, Washington's new 10th seat would be the first idea; however, if the new district were drawn around the centrists and GOP-leaning areas of the South Sound, a Democrat of Kucinich's bent would not be easily electable. One other possibility would be in the reconfigured 1st, held by Democrat Jay Inslee. Were Inslee to run for Governor, as has been rumored, Kucinich would have an open seat in a left-leaning area. Another rumor had Kucinich mulling a run in the 7th, Seattle's left-wing working class suburbs.

As far as how welcome Kucinich would be in the 2012 field, local party leaders were reportedly cool, running to cold, to the idea. Former House Majority Leader Denny Heck was thought to have the first shot at the Democratic nomination for the new seat.[44] The chair of Washington's Democratic state party said Kucinich had not directly contacted the party about a candidacy and described the entire story as, 'tremendously unusual."[45]

Kucinich had limited familiarity with the state, having held fundraisers in liberal areas during his Presidential campaigns and having once lived on the coast. Still, Washington's media saw him as an Ohioan and went so far as to call him a "shameless self promoter" with no connection to the state "beyond opportunity".[46]

Citizen activism

Win/Win Network

A non-profit dedicated to creating Washington's first "majority people of color" district, the Win/Win network drew up a plan that would carve up Seattle and its environs in order to create such a seat, announcing plans to submit it to the Washington State Redistricting Commission.[47]

The first obstacle - cutting Seattle in half - arose early. Seattle is currently contained within a single seat, the 17th, whose Democratic Congressman publicly said he doesn't quite see the point of cutting up the city. The GOP will likely also resist the plan, as heavily blue Seattle, cut in two and put into play in two seats, would worsen their electoral chances.

The Redistricting Committee, while accepting the plan for consideration and reiterating that it welcomes all public participation and submissions, noted that not splitting cities is high on its list of goals for the 2011 remapping. That sentiment was echoed by a University of Washington professor emeritus. who noted that the seat would give no one racial minority the bulk of the vote but would instead deliberately ensure whites would be the minority. Richard Morrill said, "It assumes it's whites versus everybody else. That's not very helpful."

The proposed seat. barely possible by combing southeast Seattle and selected suburbs, is best described as following the boundaries of the the 11th, 30th, 33rd, 37th and 47th.[48]

Legal issues

Yakima City Council lawsuit

Filed by Tim Schoenrock, an immigration attorney hired by former Yakima Democratic Party chairman Tony Sandoval, an April 2011 case charged that the city was on long term violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Acts, the text banning voting procedures designed to lead to discriminatory outcomes.

Sandoval's argument is that because Hispanics register to vote and exercise that right in lower percentages than whites, the former group is being discriminated against by Yakima's City Council election system. Under the at-large election system, Sandoval alleges, whites are wrongly able to parlay their greater political engagement into more representation on the Council. The lawsuit claims Yakima's 40% Hispanic population is thus underrepresented.[49]

Both Sandoval and Schoenrock are asking for the city to be divided into seven equal districts, a design that would allow concentrated populations a better chance of electing a member of their own community.

Schoenrock told reporters, "The white population votes at a larger percentage than Latinos thereby over ruling every time the Latino group disagrees with the white vote."[50]

The lawsuit is of concern due to its proximity to another suit and to what the decision in both cases could mean. The Obama Administration's Justice Department has been arguing for the last year that the city of Irving Texas should be allowed to count illegally present individuals as residents for purposes of allocating representation and funding. As Yakima's lawsuit hinges on the question for whether there is a systematic deprivation of political representation to a minority population, if the Justice Department prevails in the Irving case in time to apply that precedent to Yakima, the implications could be far-reaching.

Citizens have placed an initiative to achieve the same end on the August primary election ballot, but that item, if passed, would not take effect until 2012. The lawsuit seeks to force an immediate change in how city council seats are divided.[51]


  • January 15, 2011: The leader of each of the four legislative caucuses names a single commission member.
  • January 30, 2011: At least three of the four voting members must agree on a fifth non-voting member of the decision passes to the state Supreme Court.
  • November 1, 2011: Commission members aim to have a draft map ready for public comment.[52]
  • January 1, 2012: The commission, with at least three of the four voting members in accord, must agree on and present a final map to the state legislature.
  • January 30, 2012: If the commission misses its initial deadline and does not present a map by the end of January, the Washington Supreme Court takes over the process.
  • February 10, 2012: The legislature must pass on the map as it is or approve any boundary changes with a supermajority vote.
  • March 1, 2012: If the Supreme Court has cause to take over the process, they must present a complete map by today.
  • August 14, 2012: The first election, primaries for the 2012 General Election, using the new boundaries takes place.


2001 redistricting

Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[53]
Office Percentage
Congressional Districts 0.00%
State House Districts 0.30%
State Senate Districts 0.30%
Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.
Figure 2: This map shows the deviation from perfectly proportioned districts in Washington as of 2010.

Constitutional explanation

The Washington State Constitution provides authority for the creation of and details the duties of a Redistricting Commission in Section 43 of Article II.

Ballot measures

The following measures have appeared on the Washington ballot pertaining to redistricting.

See also

External links


  1. Associated Press "Wash. redistricting commission holds first meeting," January 18, 2011
  2. KAPS Radio, "2011 Washington Redistricting Commission", January 17, 2011
  3. The Corner, "WA 2011 redistricting officially underway", January 18, 2011
  4. Washington Secretary of State Blog "Redistricting soon to gear up," December 20, 2010
  5. The Seattle Times, "Gorton, Huff are GOP picks for redistricting panel", January 4, 2011
  6. From our corner "Back to the future for Slade and redistricting," January 4, 2011
  7. State Redistricting Commission Site
  8. The Spokesman Review, "Lura Powell chosen to head Redistricting Commish", January 28, 2011
  9. Yakima-Herald "Redistricting panel needs member from east of the cascades," January 24, 2011
  10. Washington Secretary of State Blog, "Redistricting panel picks chair, girds for task ahead", January 28, 2011
  11. The Bellingham Herald, "Bonnie Bunning picked as Redistricting Commission director", February 25, 2011
  12. Washington State Redistricting Commission, "Census Bureau ships fresh numbers to Washington state; redistricting next", February 23, 2011
  13. The Seattle Times, "Redistricting panel starts public hearings next week", May 9, 2011
  14. The Seattle Times "State redistricting panel holding first public forum," May 17, 2011
  15. Kitsap Sun "State redistricting commission starts tour on Tuesday," May 16, 2011
  16. The Seattle Times, "Light turnout at Washington redistricting hearing", May 18, 2011
  17. The Olympian, "Residents give input on district", May 19, 2011
  18. Kitsap Sun, "Panel with power to redraw political map begins its work", May 21, 2011
  19. The News Tribune "Public part of once-a-decade redistricting starts this week," May 14, 2011
  20. The Columbian, "Washington redistricting panel to meet in Vancouver", May 12, 2011
  21. The Seattle Post Intelligencer, "More hearings on new WA congressional district", May 21, 2011
  22. KUOW.org, "Congressional Redistricting Forums In Puget Sound Area", May 23, 2011
  23. The Renton Patch, "Washington State Redistricting Commission Holds Public Forum Tonight in Bellevue", May 24, 2011
  24. Bellevue Reporter, "Eastside precincts face many questions in redistricting process", May 25, 2011
  25. Herald Net, "State's redistricting commission takes comments in Everett about 10th district", May 26, 2011
  26. Th Bellingham Herald, "Washington Redistricting Commission coming to WWU May 26", May 23, 2011
  27. Western Front News, "State plans to redraw district lines", May 27, 2011
  28. Washington Secretary of State, "What a difference a decade makes …", March 2, 2011
  29. The Spokesman Review, "All Washington congressional districts to shrink", February 23, 2011
  30. Seattle Times "Washington one of few Dem-leaning states to gain Congressional seat," December 21, 2010
  31. The Seattle Times, "Washington gains 830,000 residents, becomes 13th most populous state", December 21, 2010
  32. Seattle Weekly, "Fastest Growing Legislative Districts in Washington State Are Republican", January 4, 2011
  33. Bellingham Herald "Redistricting mix includes Olympia, Bellevue," December 22, 2010
  34. Seattle Times "8th District must shrink most in redistricting," December 22, 2010
  35. Swing State Project, "Redistricting in Georgia and Washington", January 3, 2011
  36. Yakima Herald, "How the 'Cascade Curtain' could open -- just a bit", December 31, 2010
  37. Kirkland Patch, "Redistricting Panel Member: Kirkland Could Be Part of New Congressional District", May 3, 2011
  38. News Tribune "Congressional district shuffle to begin in state," February 27, 2011
  39. Tri-City Herald, "Eastern Washington needs spot on redistricting panel", January 13, 2011
  40. Seattle Times "Washington's redistricting commission should include a member from east side of the state," January 10, 2011
  41. Yakima Herald "As redistricting nears, Washington is a state in flux," May 9, 2011
  42. Mercer Island Patch, "Mercer Island Likely to Remain 'Eastside' in Redistricting, Say Legislators", May 12, 2011
  43. Bellingham Herald "Redistricting bill draws questions," January 27, 2011
  44. Seattlest, "Redistricting, Carpetbagging, and a UFO", May 8, 2011
  45. Politico, "Dennis Kucinich might move left -- to Washington", May 4, 2011
  46. Seattle Times, "Thanks, Dennis, but no", May 6, 2011
  47. The Seattle Times, "Activists propose 'majority minority' congressional district for Washington", March 25, 2011
  48. Rainier Valley Post, "Activists Propose New ‘Majority Minority’ Congressional District for Rainier Valley & South Seattle Suburbs", March 29, 2011
  49. The Daily Caller, "Illegal aliens set to tilt Yakima, Wash. election scales by being included in district headcounts", April 4, 2011
  50. MSNBC, "Yakima Sued for Voting Rights Act Violations", March 31, 2011
  51. KNDU.com, "Yakima Sued for Voting Rights Act Violations", March 31, 2011
  52. The Olympian, "Weigh in with your ideas on how to best shape the districts", May 22, 2011
  53. National Conference of State Legislatures, “Redistricting 2000 Population Deviation Table”, accessed February 1, 2011