Washington gets 10th House seat

WASHINGTON -- Washington will not only be picking up a new 10th congressional district, but its share of federal funding should also increase after the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday that the state has been one of the fastest growing in the country during the past 10 years.

The new congressional seat will give the state added clout on Capitol Hill. Only 11 other states will have more members in the House.

Officially, the state now has a population of 6,753,369 -- up 14.1 percent, or more than 830,000 people, during the past 10 years.

Not only is Washington the fastest growing state on the West Coast, numerically it also was the eighth-fastest growing state in the nation, and percentage-wise, the 13th-fastest growing. Washington also grew faster than the national average of 9.7 percent.

In the 2000 census, Washington ranked 15th among all states in terms of population. With the 2010 census, it now ranks 13th.

While most of the attention has so far focused on the new congressional seat, more than $400 billion in federal funding annually is handed out to state and local governments based on population formulas.

"Much is riding on the results we announce today," said Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, a former governor of Washington. "The 2010 census will serve as a backbone for our political and economic system for years to come."

The Census Bureau is part of the Commerce Department.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire was aware of the impact the census would have on the state.

"At a critical time in our nation's history, not only do I welcome the additional representation in our nation's capital, I am pleased Washington state's share of federal funding to support critical programs like Medicaid and education will also increase," she said.

Experts had earlier predicted Washington state would pick up another congressional seat. It's the third time in the past four censuses in which Washington has gained a seat.

Every congressional district in the state will be affected by the redistricting. Most of the speculation is the new 10th district will be centered in Olympia and could have major effects on the existing 3rd, 6th, 8th and 9th congressional districts. Pierce County could be divided into four different congressional districts under some scenarios.

An independent redistricting commission will draw up the new congressional and legislative boundaries. Washington is one of seven states in which redistricting has been taken out of the hands of the Legislature.

The commission has two Democrats, two Republicans and a non-voting chairman. It will take support from three of the four commissioners to adopt new boundaries for the congressional and legislative districts, though the Legislature could make some minor adjustments.

Prior to 1983, the Legislature handled redistricting, but the issue was highly partisan, and at one point, a federal judge had to appoint a special master to draw up the new boundaries.

The commission won't get down to work until more detailed census figures are released this spring. The new boundaries will be in effect for the 2012 election.

Even though the commission is supposed to be nonpartisan, in practice that's not necessarily the case.

"It is still a political process," said Matt Barreto, an associate professor of political science at the University of Washington.