Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Who represents you?

Commission redraws our state’s political map

Every ten years, the political lines get redrawn after the census. It’s a complicated process, but necessary to make sure your vote counts the same as anyone else’s vote.

You can see the new Congressional and legislative district maps here, at the Redistricting Commission’s website.

Traditionally, lawmakers redrew their own boundaries. That still happens in other states, and there have been problems with that sort of system. Sometimes, political parties in power tried to draw new districts that hurt the party out of power.

Here in Washington state, the process is more open and fair. A commission of five citizens is appointed, with the House suggesting two names (one from the Democrats and one from the Republican), the Senate suggesting two and the governor picking a non-partisan, non-voting chair.

If a state is holding steady in population, this job isn’t too hard. You adjust the lines a little. But if a state is growing – or shrinking – a lot, you’ve got to rewrite the map and possibly add (or subtract) Congressional districts.

Our state grew enough that we gained a seat in Congress, with that new 10th District centered on Olympia.

We have 49 legislative districts, according to the state constitution. That number doesn’t grow or shrink according to the population. The districts do grow or shrink, depending on their population. What redistricting does is make sure every legislative district has roughly the same number of citizens, so your vote counts the same as any other voter in the state.

The process just finished this year, with all five commissioners working together to travel the state, listen to citizens and redraw the maps.

All the commissioners voted for the final plan.

Here’s the joint statement from two of the Democratic commissioners:

January 1, 2012
For Immediate Release: Joint Statement    
Redistricting Commissioners Dean Foster and Tim Ceis

Redistricting Commission reaches historic agreement
For the third time, the Washington State redistricting process has worked.

This is a bi-partisan process and it is always a challenge dealing with competing objectives.  But we have reached a fair and equitable resolution that will serve the citizens of Washington well. 

There were many historic changes in the adopted plan, including the addition of a 10th congressional district to Washington as well as a majority minority 9th Congressional District.  The Commission also agreed to the first majority Latino district in our state and brings the total number of minority majority legislative districts to four.  The 15th Legislative District, which is now comprised of over 54.5 percent Latino population, reflects the growing diversity of central Washington and the state as a whole.

The adopted Legislative and Congressional plans strive to equalize population, minimize unnecessary city and county splits, and keep communities of interest intact.  The amount of public comment we heard throughout the process was instrumental in helping us make this determination and we thank the public for their participation.

The redistricting process included unprecedented public participation including 18 public hearings around the state, interactive web-based comments, and incorporation of comments from county auditors.  The process has been successfully completed and it is now submitted to the legislature.

Details of the agreement can be found on the Redistricting website.

Contact:  Amy Ruble 360-786-7222

New legislative district boundaries as approved by the Washington State Redistricting Commission on January 1, 2012.
To read this story in Spanish, click here.