Evan Smith: Should we split legislative districts?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

By Evan Smith
ShorelineAreaNews Politics Writer

If one legislator has his way, 32nd District State Reps. Ruth Kagi and Cindy Ryu would run for re-election in separate, smaller districts.

Democratic state Rep. Hans Dunshee, who represents Mill Creek, Snohomish, Lake Stevens and the rest of the 44th Legislative District, has introduced a bill in the Legislature to divide each Senate district into two House districts.

It would mean that each state Senate member would represent about 137,400 people, and each House member would represent about 68,700.

That would bring representatives closer to the people, Dunshee says, and make running for office simpler and less expensive.

“If I knock on the same number of doors, I’ll reach a higher portion of my district,” Dunshee told me two weeks ago.

In addition, he said, it would eliminate what he calls the “redundancy” of having a senator like Maralyn Chase, and two representatives, like Kagi and Ryu, serving the same constituency.

The bill would direct the redistricting commission to divide the 32nd Legislative District and each of Washington’s 48 other legislative districts into representative districts “A” and “B.”

Dunshee says that it can be done for this year’s redistricting.

The bill had a hearing before a House committee Thursday.

It would change the State law that requires each of Washington's 49 legislative districts have one senator and two representatives. The State constitution simply says that Washington will has 63-99 House members and a senate with one-third to one-half the number of House members.

Dunshee noted that Oregon has used such a system for 40 years and said that most states have different districts for the state House and state Senate.

We don’t know how the bill would affect the 32nd Legislative District because the district will have to get a little smaller in redistricting.

Dunshee said that opposition might come from big-money interests and from people who are comfortable with the status quo.


Anonymous,  January 31, 2011 at 9:47 AM  

It may be less expensive for those politicians to run for office, but it certainly won't be cheaper for the taxpayers to pay their salaries, health benefits, retirement, etc.
No Thank you, if I need my rep I'll email, call or write them. How many of us require that kind of attention??

Evan Smith,  February 1, 2011 at 5:37 AM  

No change in public expense -- still 49 senators and 98 representatives; but each senator would serve one of 49 large districts, and each House member would represent one of 98 small districts, just as each U,S. senator represents the whole state and each U.S. House member represents a part of the state. Otherwise, why have two chambers? Why not have just one chamber, as Nebraska does?
It would be easier for a citizen-politician to get his message to 68,700 people then to 137,400 people

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