Panel agrees upon congressional redistricting plan

Bipartisan commission will unveil details Wednesday

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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Washington State Redistricting Commission

The bipartisan commission mapping new districts for state and congressional lawmakers announced Tuesday they had agreed on new congressional district lines but won’t reveal the details until Wednesday.

The chief question is where the commission will propose placing a new 10th Congressional District in the state. The state will gain the extra seat due to population growth.

That decision could have minor effects on Southwest Washington’s 3rd Congressional District represented by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas. If the 3rd District loses Olympia, it would likely fortify its Republican base.

The commission convened Tuesday, only to recess 20 minutes later to continue bipartisan negotiations behind closed doors. Members reconvened three hours later to announce they had struck a compromise but offered no additional details. They will unveil the proposal at an 11 a.m. meeting Wednesday, they said.

The commissioners are divided into two subteams to draw the new boundaries. Slade Gorton, Senate Republican appointee, and Tim Ceis, Senate Democratic appointee, are responsible for the congressional districts. Tom Huff, House Republican appointee, and Dean Foster, House Democratic appointee, are working on Eastern Washington’s legislative district maps.

Their work Tuesday was lagging behind the congressional district subteam.

Huff said his group was still working on the Eastern Washington district map.

“We are within five to six days of a decision,” Huff quipped. He was referring to the commission’s Jan. 1 deadline to submit final maps to the Legislature.

The commission will meet daily through Friday to try to meet the deadline. In addition to the Wednesday meeting, they’ll meet at 10:30 a.m. on both Thursday and Friday.

No new maps have been presented since the commission’s last meeting Dec. 16, when they unveiled two new legislative maps for Western Washington, including Southwest Washington. The Western Washington maps would displace five lawmakers: Southwest Washington’s Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama; Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia; Rep. Jim McCune, R-Graham; Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, and Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Lake Forest.

“How much time does the commission need?” a commenter, who identified himself as Mike B., wrote on the commission’s website Tuesday. “This process is too political, even at this level. … Putting the decision in the hands of political appointees is still ‘political’. The citizens need to be in control, not the politicians or their surrogates.”

If the commission fails to meet its deadline, the task of redistricting falls to the state Supreme Court.

The Legislature can alter proposed maps by only 2 percent. Such action needs two-thirds approval in both the Senate and the House.

The state is required by the state Constitution to adjust its legislative and congressional district boundaries every 10 years.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://www.twitter.com/Col_Trends;http://www.facebook.com/ColTrends;paris.achen@columbian.com