COMMENTARY / EVAN SMITH: No battle to control redistricting here

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

By Evan Smith
ShorelineAreaNews Politics Writer

We’re hearing a lot about Democrats and Republicans fighting for control of state legislatures because of legislators’ role in drawing Congressional and legislative districts.

In most states, legislatures redraw the district lines after the census every ten years, usually to the majority party’s advantage.

It can’t happen here.

Your vote for 32nd District State legislator won’t affect Congressional and legislative redistricting.

That’s because, a few decades ago, the Washington Legislature gave the power to draw district lines to a bipartisan commission.

Next year, State Senate Democrats, State Senate Republicans, State House Democrats and State House Republicans will each name a commissioner. Those four will agree on a non-partisan chairman, someone who has no history with either party.

Washington made the change after a couple of bad experiences.

When the 1950 census gave Washington a seventh seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Eastern and Central Washington legislators knew it would have to be in Western Washington; so, they stalled the process, while the State elected a congressman at large for three cycles.

After the 1962 “one-man, one-vote” decision, legislators couldn’t agree on districts. Voters settled it with an initiative.

In the 1980s, legislators punished a Republican legislator by putting his Mountlake Terrace home into a district with this solidly Democratic area.


JEDH,  November 2, 2010 at 11:49 PM  

Good news! Let's keep it that way. I prefer voters choosing candidates, not majority partisan elected officials choosing voters.

Anonymous,  December 30, 2010 at 4:06 PM  

Before the bipartisan Redistricting Commission completes its work, we need criteria by which to evaluate their map.

For example, new district lines should:
1) respect political boundaries, especially counties and municipalities
2) avoid pitting incumbents against one another
3) avoid moving incumbents into different districts
4) maintain geographical cohesiveness (avoid gerrymandered skinny or illogical districts)
5) respect geographical boundaries, including interstate highways, rivers and mountain ranges
6) respect U.S. voting laws by aggregating minority voters into majority-minority districts
7) create Democratic and Republican districts in roughly the proportion in which they vote
8) create new districts in areas of greatest population change, not uniformly throughout the state
9) districts should be centered on an urban area, if possible, with its own media, if possible

In essence, educate the public to they can judge "fairness" for themselves. Get the voters, the bloggers and the editorial boards involved so they can better judge the proposals. Get the geeks involved to they can offer credible alternatives. There are online mapping tools to make your own alternative.

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