State on target to get 10th House seat

By Michelle Dupler, Herald staff writer December 24, 2009 

Population estimates released Wednesday show Washington is projected to gain a seat in Congress once the 2010 Census is done.

A report from political consulting firm Election Data Analysis said if population trends hold, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington all stand to gain Congressional districts.

That would bring Washington's total to 10 seats in the U.S. House of Represen-tatives. Washington gained an eighth seat after the 1980 Census and a ninth from the 1990 Census, according to the Washington Secretary of State's Office.

"This is very good news for Washington -- a greater voice in the other Washington," Secretary of State Sam Reed said in written statement.

Washington's population has grown by about 770,000, or 13 percent, since the 2000 Census, and by 98,000 people in the last year, according to census data released Wednesday.

The state is now the 13th largest in the nation, with nearly 6.7 million residents.

Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania all stand to lose districts as populations have shifted in the last decade.

Reed spokesman David Ammons said if Washington indeed picks up a seat in Congress, the new district likely will be on the west side of the state in the central or south Puget Sound area.

The existing 3rd and 8th Congressional Districts already are too large, and so pieces of those districts are likely to be lopped off to form part of a new 10th District, Ammons said.

Although the Tri-Cities has grown significantly since 2000, that growth hasn't been enough to bring the new district to Eastern Washington, although the 4th District covering central Washington and the Tri-Cities probably will extend farther west toward Vancouver.

"I think Eastern Washington won't look all that different under any scenario I heard," Ammons said.

But he does expect changes when it comes to Eastern Washington's representation in the state Legislature because of the Tri-Cities' growth.

"There will be a lot of changes here and there in the Legislature," he said. "Some areas have really boomed. The Tri-Cities is a good example of that."

Districts in Clark County and parts of King County also may look different after the census, he said.

Districts should end up with equal populations, or a one-voter difference if there's an odd number. Other factors that go into the decision are a requirement to make districts "contiguous and compact" and a desire not to cross county lines and to keep communities of interest together.

Once the census is done at the end of 2010, new district maps for Congress and the state Legislature will be drawn by a bipartisan committee consisting of four state legislators -- two Republicans and two Democrats appointed by their respective caucuses -- and one citizen.

The committee has until the end of 2011 to finish redrawing the map, which will be presented to the Legislature for a strict "yes" or "no" vote in the 2012 session.

If the Legislature can't agree, the Supreme Court will make the decision, Ammons said.

New state and federal districts will be in place by the 2012 election.

-- Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; mdupler@tricityherald.com

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