Redistricting commission releases two possible realignment maps
Compromise ‘is a real positive step forward’ in reshaping Legislature
Friday, October 14, 2011
OLYMPIA — Clark County’s legislative redistricting options were narrowed Friday with the release of two revised draft plans.
Each new map is a compromise between the two Republican commissioners, Slade Gorton and Tom Huff, and the two Democratic commissioners, Tim Ceis and Dean Foster.
“What we did today, I think, is a real positive step forward, reducing four maps into two,” Huff said.
The Democratic commissioners’ plan puts east Clark County into the 14th District but cuts out east Yakima County, where a large Latino population resides. The plan gives the 15th District a 58 percent Hispanic majority that would be entirely contained within Yakima County. The Yakima County minority-majority district was advocated for by several minority groups during the monthlong public comment period.
The Republican commissioners’ plan leaves the 14th and 15th districts close to their current configuration, keeping the 15th District just under a Hispanic majority at 46 percent.
Both plans still leave a choice for Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, who represents the 18th District from Cowlitz County. In one plan, Cowlitz County is annexed to the 20th District; in the other, it is moved to the 19th. This would mean Orcutt would have to move into Clark County or run for re-election in another district.
Some Clark County cities, such as Battle Ground, now in the 18th District, may see a change in their legislative district. Republican commissioners Huff and Gorton moved the city into the 17th District in their new proposal. Ceis moved Camas into the 17th District in his previous plan, but the newest draft leaves it in the 18th.
This act of moving voting populations — such as cities — from one district to another was a concern addressed by John Milen, a Vancouver resident who spoke at the meeting.
Milen had assessed the quality of the plans by following a list of guidelines. He encouraged the commission to avoid removing citizens from the population they’ve been voting with for years. Another guideline Milen used was political party competitiveness.
“My concern about competitiveness is that when the voters of the state shift their preference from one party to the other, I want control of the Legislature to shift from one party to the other,” Milen said.
Drawing competitive districts is difficult in Washington, Milen said, because of the mass of Democrats in Seattle and the mass of Republicans in Eastern Washington.
“We do the best we can, but those competitiveness scores are low,” Milen said.
Lura Powell, the commission’s nonvoting chair, reiterated the goal for completion of both the congressional and legislative plans is Nov. 15. This target date gives county auditors time to review the plans before they are submitted to the Legislature during the special session, which begins Nov. 28.
Ceis addressed the need to keep a focus on the quality of the plans rather than the speed of completion.
“I’d rather make sure we have the plans done in a comprehensive fashion rather than being too quick to try and meet the objective of a special session,” Ceis said.