Redistricting proposal: Pasco could move districts

Proposed plans to redraw the Mid-Columbia's legislative districts would leave representation in Kennewick and Richland mostly intact, but Pasco could move districts altogether.

And it's pretty much guaranteed that Prosser will exit the 8th District if one of four proposals unveiled this week is adopted by the state's Redistricting Commission.

The commission's four voting members -- Tim Ceis, Dean Foster, Slade Gorton and Tom Huff -- each drew a proposed map using the 2010 U.S. Census to reconfigure the state's 49 legislative districts to make them about equal in population.

The commission's fifth member -- nonpartisan Chairwoman Lura Powell of Richland -- does not vote.

The commission is accepting public comments on the four plans, as well as 21 independent third-party proposals, through Oct. 11.

The commission plans to release a final redistricting plan in early November.

The proposed maps were drawn after commission members heard from residents throughout Washington at a series of 18 public meetings that drew about 1,000 total attendees.

"I'm pleased to say that we heard from hundreds of people who gave us very thoughtful and useful feedback," Powell said. "It impressed me to see the time and effort many had taken to inform their opinions about redrawing district lines in their communities. This input is important to the work of the commission as we develop new congressional and legislative district boundaries."

The goal of each plan was to get each district as close to 137,236 residents as possible, Gorton said.

"I am very pleased to present a redistricting proposal that I believe first and foremost follows the requirements laid out for the commission in the redistricting law," Gorton said. "For example, the law requires us to make districts' population 'as nearly equal as is practicable.' The plan I presented makes every attempt to achieve this goal.

"We are also required to draw the district lines dividing as few counties and cities as possible. We achieved that goal, reducing the number of divided cities on the legislative map from 49 to 17, and on the congressional map from 23 to just three."

The state overall grew by 830,419 people from 2000-10, and a lot of that growth was in the Mid-Columbia and in the south Puget Sound region.

The four districts representing the Mid-Columbia in the Legislature all grew in population, but only two of them grew enough to exceed the average population of 137,236 per district that will make them all equal.

The 8th and 16th districts will have to shrink, while the 9th and 15th districts need to add people.

Since the last census, the 8th District, covering part of Benton County, grew by 29,185 people, or about 24 percent, putting it 12,238 people above the target.

The 16th District, covering Walla Walla and Columbia counties, as well as Pasco, Finley and part of Kennewick, added 34,542 people, or an increase of about 29 percent. It will have to lose 17,594 people.

The 9th District, covering Adams, Asotin, Garfield and Whitman counties, plus part of Franklin and Spokane counties, also grew, but not enough to meet the target and likely will pull territory from other districts to make up the difference.

The 9th District will have to gain enough ground to add 1,070 people to bring its 2010 population of 136,166 up to the redistricting target.

The 15th District, covering Klickitat and Skamania counties, as well as part of Clark County and the Lower Yakima Valley, will have to be redrawn to add 4,448 people. Its population is 132,788, according to census data.

The maps drawn by Gorton and Huff, both Republican appointees to the commission, leave at least some of Pasco within the 16th District, while the maps drawn by Ceis and Foster move the entire Ninth District west to encompass Franklin County, and parts of Grant and Benton counties.

Under Ceis and Foster's plan, Prosser would become part of the 9th District, which would acquire entirely new legislative representation in the 2012 election. The current 9th District legislators live in Pullman, Colfax and Ritzville, which all would leave the district under their proposal and become part of the 16th District.

That move potentially would pit the current 9th and 16th District lawmakers -- all Republicans -- against each other in the 2012 election to see who ends up representing the redrawn 16th.

Gorton's plan would bring Prosser into the 16th District, while Huff's plan would add Prosser to the 15th District.