All your voting districts will change next year

Monday, June 27, 2011

By Diane Hettrick

All of your voting districts are going to change next year. Every ten years, on years ending in zero, there is a federal census. After the census data has been compiled and released, all the voting districts within each state have to be redrawn, to balance by population.

US Senators represent each state, so they are the only ones not subject to change. Two per state, regardless of the size or population of the state.

US Congressional districts are balanced on the basis of US population, but do not cross state lines. Since the population of the United States is shifting west, Ohio is losing a congressional district and Washington state is gaining one. This means that as a state we will have an additional member in Congress in the House of Representatives. Currently, Shoreline and Lake Forest Park are in two congressional districts, represented by Jay Inslee and Jim McDermott.

Within each state, the boundaries of the legislative districts will change. A committee is currently holding hearing around the state to solicit public opinion on how those districts should be configured. The hearings are broadcast on TVW, Comcast Channel 23. Right now they are showing the hearings held in Seattle, Bellevue, and Everett. The next showing is midnight on Thursday, June 30.

Currently, Shoreline and Lake Forest Park are fully within the 32nd legislative district, which stretches east to Juanita, including Kenmore and Finn Hill. To balance population ten years ago, the committee split Edmonds, with the southwestern portion joining the 32nd district. The line literally goes down the middle of the street, with people on the south side of Walnut Ave in the 32nd and people across the street in the 21st. The 32nd is represented by Sen. Maralyn Chase, and Representatives Cindy Ryu and Ruth Kagi.

Anyone can testify at these hearing, but most are public officials, city council members, and people who are active in their political organizations. Shoreline resident Elaine Phelps, of the 32nd District Democrats, told the committee that when part of Edmonds joined the 32nd, there was great resistance on all sides because the district now crossed county lines. However, she said, they soon learned that suburban cities have so much in common that working with two counties was not an issue, and asked the committee to consider keeping suburban cities together, rather than joining them to urban cities.

People from rural areas talked about the difficulty of getting people together for meetings because of the distance and difficulty of travel in districts that cover large amount of territory. One district even ended up with people on each side of a mountain pass.

King County is also redrawing its council boundaries to rebalance by population. Currently, Shoreline and Lake Forest Park are fully within District 1, represented by Bob Ferguson. District 1 has remained fairly stable in population, but other areas have grown so District 1 needs to get bigger. Of the four current proposals, two of them split the district down I-5, with west Shoreline and north Seattle together, and east Shoreline and LFP in a different district.  See story.


Janet Way June 27, 2011 at 8:23 AM  

Thanks for the nice clear explanation of the redistricting process. I hope that folks from Shoreline will weigh in at these hearings and that the legislative district will end up including all of Shoreline. But whatever happens, it is important that citizens participate in their district organizations.

I also covered this on Of Paramount Importance Blog.

Thank you.


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