Redistricting changes can help/hurt Mid-Columbia

September 26, 2011 

The first drafts of the state redistricting panel's proposals for changing Washington's political boundaries are out, and most of the attention is focused on how we'll shoehorn a 10th congressional district into the state.

Three of the four proposals released by the Washington State Redistricting Commission include a minority-dominated congressional district in south King County.

The cards seemed stacked in favor of creating the state's first congressional district where racial minorities comprise the majority of voters.

But it would be a mistake for Eastern Washington voters to let the focus on Puget Sound deflect their interest in this major political undertaking.

Because the Tri-Cities is a major area of growth in the state, we are certain to be affected by the addition of new seat in Congress

The panel is also charged with redrawing the state's legislative districts to ensure equal representation. That exercise bears watching as well.

To give the fairest representation possible, a committee of two Republicans and two Democrats (with a nonpartisan, nonvoting chairwoman) has to agree on a new political map to present to the Legislature.

Right now, there are eight plans to consider, one legislative map and one congressional map created by each of the commissioners, and another 21 -- submitted from third-party groups.

There's plenty to consider. Would the Tri-Cities benefit more from being split up and having more representatives taking our interests to Olympia and Washington, D.C.? Or do we lobby to stick together as one powerful bloc?

The second option, by the way, probably isn't a possibility for the Legislature.

Each legislative district should come as close to 137,236 residents as possible. And we are already significantly bigger than that.

Does it make sense for Pasco to be in the same district as Walla Walla? Does it make sense for Finley to be in the same district as Camas?

Erik Smith of the Washington State Wire news service noticed something interested. A couple of proposals would shift the 9th Legislative District so far west that all three sitting legislators would be left behind.

So depending on the plan, state Sen. Mark Schoesler, a rising star in the Republican leadership, would either have to run against Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, a fellow Republican from Walla Walla, or Janea Holmquist Newbry, a fellow Republican from Moses Lake. No matter how the next election came out, there would be one less Republican, Smith pointed out.

Now is the time to consider these options.

The maps all differ considerable are from each other. The criteria are the same, but the solutions are widely different from each other.

Rather than advise people how to think on this one, we are staying our opinion, for now. The only recommendation that we have for you is to get involved.

Redistricting makes the case for a picture being worth a thousand words. View the maps on the commission's website at www.redistricting.wa.gov.

Sound complicated? It's really not that bad. When you get to the home page, click on the video "A Message from the Chair." You will get a personal guided tour from Richland's Lura Powell, former senior vice president of Battelle (and other impressive positions).

Powell will tell you about the maps, how to view them and how to comment on them. She will also remind you that if you want your comments to be considered, they must be received before the commission's Oct. 11 meeting.

Take some time to provide feedback before the final lines are drawn.

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