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Why creating House districts could make the Washington State Legislature more diverse

Editor’s Note: The NPI team is pleased to welcome Richard Champion as a contributor to the NPI Advocate. Richard is a committed Democratic activist who currently serves as the 2nd Vice Chair of the King County Democrats. He resides in the 30th LD and is active in the 30th LD Democrats. As with all posts by our contributors, the views expressed here are his, and not those of NPI. Enjoy, and feel free to leave your own thoughts on this idea in the comment thread.

Two years ago, I weighed in on our state’s redistricting process with a substantive diary on Daily Kos in which I talked about what a constitutionally-compliant set of maps might look like, and presented some examples.

As before, I was spurred to look more closely at the consequences of redistricting following the late John Milem’s lawsuit challenging the legality of the Washington State Redistricting Commission’s decennial maps.

Article II, Section of 43 of Washington’s Constitution and state law (RCW 44.05.090) state that redistricting maps should be drawn so as to:

  1. Coincide with the boundaries of local political subdivisions and areas recognized as communities of interest;
  2. Make the number of counties and municipalities divided among more than one district as small as possible;
  3. Be convenient, contiguous (connected by transportation), and compact territory; and
  4. Provide fair and effective representation, encourage electoral competition, and not drawn to purposely favor of any political party or group.

While the state Constitution doesn’t forbid single-member House districts, RCW 44.05.090 currently states that state representatives are elected at-large in the legislative districts. Washington is one of only ten states left that still has multi-member districts. Single-member districts allow for a more logical hierarchy between the House and Senate, as well as allowing for more majority-minority districts resulting in more legislators from racial minorities in the state legislature.

While Washington isn’t under the umbrella of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act – even before the Supreme Court’s recent decision eviscerating Section 4 – greater diversity in our elected officials is a worthwhile goal, particularly in light of Washington state’s decreasing legislative diversity.

In Washington, redistricting is done by the Washington State Redistricting Commission, which has two Democrats, two Republicans and a nonvoting, nonpartisan chair. Since the committee members are chosen by the Legislature’s four major party caucuses, the plans they produce look like incumbent protection maps. And that’s because both parties are trying to protect their own.

This results in safe districts that unnecessarily split counties and cities, which is in violation of what’s in both the state Constitution and state law. Washington is one of only ten states that has multi-member districts. RCW 44.05.090 states:

The house of representatives shall consist of ninety-eight members, two of whom shall be elected from and run at large within each legislative district.

Multi-member districting has been in decline since the Voting Rights Act was adopted and specifically the 1982 Supreme Court case Thornburg v. Gingles, in which a unanimous Court found that:

… the legacy of official discrimination … acted in concert with the multi-member districting scheme to impair the ability of … cohesive groups of black voters to participate equally in the political process and to elect candidates of their choice.

Since the adoption of Voting Rights Act and the Supreme Court’s decision in Thornburg v. Gingles, states not covered by Section 5 of the Act have taken a better safe than sorry approach by eliminating their multi-member districting so as to not be subject to court challenges.

It’s plainly obvious that when you have smaller districts of ‘communities of interest’ you are less likely to dilute the voting strength of communities of color and therefore better allow them to elect candidates of their choice.

A fine example is South Dakota, which, like Washington, has two state representatives and one state senator elected from each legislative district, except for two legislative districts (the 26th & and 28th) which are split into single-member House districts since the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations are (or were until recently) covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

In both 2011 and 2012, Hans Dunshee (D-District 44/Snohomish) introduced House Bill 1092 which would have changed the state law to state:

Each legislative district shall be divided into two house districts, denoted as house district A and B, with a single member of the house of representatives being elected from each house district.

This would have resulted in Washington being analogous to other western states like Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, Montana, and Wyoming which also have a “two-in-one” legislative structure. Suffice to say, the bill – which would have potentially displaced several incumbents – failed to get a vote.

This points at another issue with the current multi-member districting – legislator crowding. For example, in the 12th and 25th LDs, all of the legislators reside in Wenatchee/East Wenatchee and Puyallup, respectively, even though those cities account for less than half of the population in the district. As shown below, that would not be possible in a single-member House district map.

Also at issue with multi-member districting is that its at odds with the commonly understood American hierarchy between upper and lower legislative bodies, wherein senators represent larger populations with more broad and diverse interests and concerns, while representatives have narrower, more cohesive constituencies.

In states like Washington, senators and representatives have identical communities resulting in less diversity of legislative mindsets; to say nothing of decreased diversity in legislators themselves. In addition, single-member House districts would allow for partisan diversity from region to region.

Currently, eastern Washington is represented exclusively by Republicans… if we don’t count the Democrats who hail from within Spokane.

The existing districts are uncompetitive, but smaller House districts would enable Democrats, particularly in Yakima, to at least have a chance of being elected – and encouraging electoral competition is one of the principles that the Redistricting Commission is supposed to be using when creating their plans.

Those of you reading who like the sound of this idea may be wondering: How might we go about replacing legislative districts with House and Senate districts?

First, let’s look at the legislative map created by the Redistricting Commission. It is important to note that their plan split twenty-four cities that didn’t need to be split due to size. These are: Aberdeen, Auburn, Battle Ground, Bellevue, Bellingham, Bremerton, Burien, Des Moines, Edmonds, Everett, Issaquah, Kennewick, Kent, Kirkland, Lakewood, Lynnwood, Marysville, Mount Vernon, Mountlake Terrace, Pasco, Redmond, Renton, Sammamish, and Yakima.

Furthermore, their plan split seven counties that didn’t need to be based on their population. The counties that got split are Cowlitz, Franklin, Grant, Grays Harbor, Lewis, Okanogan, and Skagit.

Take a look at this gallery of current statewide Washington legislative maps. (Note: Deviations from actual map are the result of Dave’s Redistricting App not allowing for the splitting of voting precincts, while the Commission could):

Redrawn state map of legislative districts

Picture 1 of 6

Electoral performance of the current Washington legislative map based on the 2008 Presidential and 2010 Senate elections:

Washington Legislative - Chart

Last year, John Milem (a citizen activist from Vancouver who followed the redistricting process closely) filed a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the Redistricting Commission’s maps. As part of his complaint, Milem created his own plan that he felt would actually follow those previously stated canons of redistricting.

Here is a statewide look at his legislative map:

Milem Lawsuit - Legislative - Statewide

And an inset of the Puget Sound region:

Milem Lawsuit - Legislative - Puget Sound

One of the big flaws with Milem’s plan is that he does not take incumbency into account. By that, I don’t mean protecting incumbents from an electoral challenge, but preventing incumbent state senators from representing a district where they do not reside. Specifically, I’m talking about senators who aren’t up for election in the year following the completion of redistricting, in this case in 2012.

California is currently facing as similar problem in the aftermath of their complete overhaul of their redistricting process.

Only half of Washington state senators are up for election each cycle, so when tasked with legislative redistricting – as opposed to congressional redistricting where all incumbent U.S. Representatives are up for election in each even-numbered year – anyone attempting to draw new maps must seek to avoid having those state senators not up for election districted out.

In at least four cases, Milem districted two state senators into the same district when neither were up for election in 2012 – his 4th (Ranker & Ericksen), 25th (Eide & Keiser), 21st (Kohl-Welles & Murray) and 8th (Sells & Shin) Legislative Districts.

Under Milem’s plan, more than 8% of the State Senate would be represented by senators who don’t live in their district.

One solution to this would be to do what Texas does (one of the few sensible things they do) which is to make all of state senators stand for election the year following redistricting. Then, after the election, they’d have to draw straws, with half getting the short straw and serving a two-year term, and the other half drawing a long straw and serving a four-year term. While Texas still does a ridiculous amount of gerrymandering, they don’t have to for reasons of state senators not being up for election. Washington could do the same thing.

I don’t like the practice of splitting cities when cities could be divided more simply or not at all. Milem splits the cities of Tacoma and Renton into four and three LDs, respectively, while Tacoma only needs to be split into two districts and Renton does not need to be split at all, which I was able accomplish in both cases.

But I do agree with much of what John Milem proposed – and that’s why you’ll see several similarities in our approaches. In the end, his plan split only five cities that didn’t need to be based on size; those being: Bellevue, Bothell, Coulee Dam, Renton, and Yakima. Also, his plan splits only one unnecessary county, Skagit, but he disregards the necessity for connectivity with his Island County district having no way to get from Camano Island to Whidbey Island.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able create a chart of the electoral performance of John Milem’s proposed legislative map, since I don’t have shape files for his plan to plug into Dave’s Redistricting App and it’s too hard to “eyeball” it.

Now finally, we come to my proposed State Senate and House proposed redistricting maps. There are fourteen maps in all in this gallery, and you can page through them by clicking the navigation buttons below the first image.

The first two maps show a state-level view of proposed House and Senate districts, while the remaining twelve maps are insets of populated areas like Puget Sound and the heart of the Inland Empire. You can click on any image for a bigger view.

Statewide Senate map

Picture 1 of 14

Here is a chart of the electoral performance of my proposed State Senate map:

Richard's Senate - Statewide - Chart

And here is a chart of the electoral performance of my proposed State House map:

Richard's House - Statewide - Chart

Now I’ll go through the proposed districts and note their characteristics.

(Note: I used numbering similar to what’s being used currently, but in cases of where there was an incumbent state senator that wasn’t up for election in 2012, his or her district number took precedence. For example, Derek Kilmer wasn’t up in 2012, so his hypothetical “new” district is numbered #26, even though #27 more closely resembles his proposed district.)

1st SD: Likely-to-safe Democratic suburban district straddling King-Snohomish County line with all of Bothell (which is in both counties), Woodinville, Brier, and Kenmore. HD 1 is an entirely King County safe Democratic district, including Bothell (King County portion), Woodinville, and Kenmore, while HD 2 is a likely Democratic completely Snohomish County district including Bothell (Snohomish County portion), Brier, and the unincorporated North Creek community.

2nd SD: Safe Republican rural/suburban district straddling Pierce-Thurston County line with most of JBLM and all of Steilacoom, Yelm, Orting, and Eatonville. HD 3 is the more westerly likely Republican district, including JBLM, Steilacoom, Yelm, and Dupont. Obama lost by less than two hundred and fifty votes here in 2008, but it’d take an exceptional circumstance for a Democrat to be elected here. HD 4 is the eastern safe Republican, more rural district, including Orting, Eatonville, and the unincorporated Graham community.

3rd SD: Tossup urban/suburban district with northern Spokane and unincorporated suburbs north of Spokane. It’s worth noting that I made 3rd and 6th SDs basically electorally equivalent. In both proposed senate districts, Patty Murray won by 50.1-50.0%. Both very swingy, in pursuit of electoral competition (and since Spokane must be split). Also, like the 6th SD, the House districts redounded to a safe Democratic district entirely within the city of Spokane, in this case HD 5, and a likely Republican, mostly suburban district, in this case HD 6.

4th SD: Safe Republican suburban/rural district east of Spokane centered around Spokane Valley. HD 7 is the more rural and more Republican district, while HD 8 is the region on Spokane Valley (and Millwood) nearest the city of Spokane and somewhat less conservative, though both are still safe Republican districts.

5th SD: Likely Democratic district; located in a different area of King County than the current 5th District, represented by Mark Mullet in the Senate. This was drawn as a diverse (53% white) district, including all of Kent and Covington. HD 9 is western Kent safe Democratic majority-minority house district, while HD 10 is a tossup district including eastern Kent and Covington (only 58% white).

6th SD: Tossup (see 3rd SD) Spokane County district with southern and northwestern Spokane and Cheney, Medical Lake and Fairchild Air Force Base. As stated earlier, with Dave’s Redistricting App, you cannot split precincts, though it would require enough land to connect the college town Cheney with the rest of the district. HD 11 and HD 12 are similar to HD 5 and HD 6, respectively, in that they are composed of a safe Democratic city of Spokane district and a likely Republican district mostly made up of populations outside the city. Its also worth noting that the dividing line between SD 3 and SD 6 was very cleanly done along I-90.

7th SD: Safe Republican Okanogan highlands distric that includes the entirety of the counties of Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille as well as northern (rural) Spokane County. HD 13 is a safe Republican district, but it notably happens to have the highest Native American population (11%) of any proposed House District by including both the Spokane and Colville Indian Reservations as well as all of Okanogan, Ferry, and western Stevens Counties. HD 14 is a less diverse, safe Republican district that takes in Pend Oreille County, eastern Stevens County, and northern Spokane County (which is very rural).

8th SD: Safe Republican Benton County district with all of Richland and almost all of Kennewick (split to connect Benton and Frankling Counties) as well as the Hanford Nuclear reservation. HD 15 is a safe Republican district wholly within the city of Kennewick (25% Hispanic), whereas HD 16 is a safe Republican district, including the cities of Richland, West Richland and small amount of Kennewick.

9th SD: Safe Republican southeast Washington district containing Walla Walla and Pullman (both college towns) and agricultural territory. This district includes the entirety of Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield, Asotin, and Whitman Counties as well as some of rural southeast Spokane County. HD 17 is a safe Republican district, including Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield, and Asotin (excluding the Lewiston area) Counties, while in HD 18, including all of Whitman County, the Lewiston area in Asotin County, and rural southeast Spokane County.

10th SD: Tossup-to-lean Republican Snohomish and Island County district containing Marysville, Arlington, Stanwood, the Tualip Indian Reservation and Camano Island. HD 19 is the more rural, lean Republican district outside of Marysville including the Tualip Indian Reservation, while HD 20 is a tossup district that’s nearly completely within the city of Marysville.

11th SD: Safe Democratic district consisting of Renton, Newcastle and southwest Bellevue. The Commission’s 11th LD is bizarrely shaped, but a majority-minority district. My 11th SD is not, but is only 53.3% white. I had to very slightly gerrymander HD 21 to make it majority-minority house district. HD 21 is pretty much all Renton, while HD 22 is a less diverse (57% white) safe Democratic district made up of northern Renton, all of Newcastle and the Newport, Somerset, and Factoria neighborhoods of Bellevue.

12th SD: Safe Republican district has all of Kittitas and Chelan Counties and East Wenatchee in Douglas County. HD 23 is a compact safe Republican district spanning Cashmere, Wenatchee and East Wenatchee. It has a sizable Hispanic population (27%), while HD 24 is a safe Republican district composed of rural communities in the electricity-generating Kittitas and Chelan Counties.

13th SD: Safe Republican district including all of Lincoln and Grant Counties, most of Douglas County except East Wenatchee, and rural western Spokane County. While still a safe Republican district, HD 25 is a majority-minority house district (46% Hispanic) in southern Grant County centered around Moses Lake, but also including the small towns of Quincy and Mattawa. HD 26 is a safe Republican district, more rural and considerably less diverse (82.6% white), with US Highway 2 running through the middle. It includes all of Lincoln County, most of Douglas County, northern Grant County, and rural western Spokane County.

14th SD: Safe Republican district in northern Yakima County comprising all of Moxee, Selah, Zillah, Sunnyside, and Grandview and the western (more white) part of the city of Yakima. The city of Yakima was split due to it being rather segregated, with east Yakima being heavily Hispanic, while west Yakima not having much of a minority population. Thus, in the interest of creating electorally competitive (See: SD 15) that didn’t divide a “community of interest” (read: communities of color), I split the city of Yakima, which isn’t necessary based on its population. Both HD 27 (east) and HD 28 (west) are safe Republican districts, but HD 27 is a majority-minority house district with a 57% Hispanic population.

15th SD: Tossup majority-minority senate district (47% white) taking in the rest of Yakima County not in the 14th SD, Skamania County, Klickitat County and a small portion of Clark County. HD 29 is exclusively east Yakima and Union Gap, a majority-minority house district (51% Hispanic) and electorally, a tossup district. HD 30 contains basically all of the Yakama Indian Reservation and has the second highest population of Native Americans (10.7%) of the proposed House Districts. HD 30 is a tossup district and, while not majority-minority, is only 51.7% white.

16th SD: Safe Republican majority-minority senate district that has all of Franklin and Adams Counties, rural Benton County and a small portion of unincorporated Yakima County south of Grandview. Both HD 31 (south) and HD 32 (north) are majority-minority house districts and very safe Republican districts.

17th SD: Lean Republican district entirely in Clark County containing eastern Vancouver, Camas, and Washougal. HD 33 is a tossup district entirely in eastern Vancouver, while HD 34 is a likely Republican district including all of Camas and Washougal and a small amount of the city of Vancouver in the Mill Plain area.

18th SD: Safe Republican district containing rural and suburban unincorporated Clark County with the small towns of Battle Ground and Ridgefield. HD 35 is a rural, very safe Republican district centered around Battle Ground, while HD 36 including the unincorporated census-designated places in the Vancouver suburbs of Orchards, Five Corners, and Mount Vista is more moderate, likely Republican district where Democrats could be electorally competitive.

19th SD: Tossup district comprised of Pacific, Wahkiakum, and Cowlitz Counties and a small portion of Clark County in and around La Center. HD 37 is a likely Republican district in eastern Cowlitz County, including Kelso, Kalama, and Castle Rock, and the small portion of Clark County in SD 19, while HD 38 is a lean Democratic district including all of Pacific and Wahkiakum Counties and Longview in Cowlitz County. It is worth noting that considering the performance of Obama and Murray, this would be considered rather electorally competitive, but conservative and biconceptual Democrats have been elected in this area for a long time.

20th SD: Safe Republican district consisting of all of Lewis County, including the cities of Centralia and Chehalis, and rural southern Thurston County. HD 39, which is mostly southern Thurston County and rural areas around Centralia in Lewis County, was won by Obama by more than 450 votes in 2008, though based on Murray’s performance in 2010 is still at best only a lean Republican district. On the other hand, HD 40, including nearly all of Lewis County, is a very safe Republican district, particularly for western Washington.

21st SD: Safe Democratic coastal Whatcom County district containing all of Bellingham, Ferndale, and Blaine. HD 41 is a likely Democratic district including Ferndale, Blaine, and northern Bellingham, as well as the Lummi Indian Reservation, while HD 42 is a safe Democratic district containing southern Bellingham and the unincorporated Sudden Valley community south of Lake Whatcom.

(Aside: The numbering of this district was the biggest conundrum in creating this map, since the current 21st LD is represented by Sen. Paull Shin, who wasn’t up for election in 2012. Several other senators were in the same boat, specifically the 38th LD’s Nick Harper, the 44th LD’s Steve Hobbs, and the 32nd LD’s Maralyn Chase. I chose to make it the 21st district and moved it to Whatcom County, since it least resembled the proposed Snohomish County senate districts. This would result in one state senator, Paull Shin, representing a district where he doesn’t live, but that is better than four in John Milem’s proposal.)

22nd SD: Safe Democratic Thurston County district including the state capital of Olympia and its suburb Lacey. HD 43 is a likely Democratic district containing Lacey and the unincorporated census-designated place Tanglewilde-Thompson Place. HD 44 is a safe Democratic house district centered around Olympia.

23rd SD: Lean-to-likely Democratic Kitsap County district taking in the cities of Poulsbo, Silverdale and Bainbridge Island. HD 45 is a safe Republican central Kitsap County district containing the unincorporated census-designated places Silverdale, Tracyton, and Erlands Point-Kitsap Lake and nearby areas. HD 46 is a safe Democratic northern Kitsap County district containing Poulsbo, Bainbridge Island, and the Port Madison Indian Reservation.

24th SD: Lean Democratic district containing all of Clallam and Jefferson Counties and northwestern Grays Harbor County with the natural border of Chehalis River, including Aberdeen north of the Chehalis River and the cities of Port Angeles, Hoquiam, and Port Townsend. HD 47 is a tossup-to-lean Democratic district that has the 3rd largest Native American population (7.2%) of the proposed house districts by including the Makah and Quinault Indian Reservations as well as rural section of Clallam, Jefferson and Grays Harbor counties as well as the towns of Port Angeles, Hoquiam, Forks, and Ocean Shores. HD 48 is a more compact & affluent, less diverse (90.5% white) lean-to-likely Democratic district centered around the cities of Port Townsend and Sequim.

(Aside: Like the 19th SD, according to the performance of Obama and Murray, you’d expect this area to be a lean Democratic district, moderate-to-conservative Democrats have been elected here for a long time by comfortable margins.)

25th SD: Lean-to-likely Republican Pierce County district centered around Puyallup and unincorporated Tacoma suburbs of South Hill, Waller and Frederickson. Both HD 49 and HD 50 are lean-to-likely Republican districts, but are composed of Puyallup and South Hill (west) and Waller and Frederickson (east), respectively.

26th SD: Likely-to-safe Democratic Pierce County district in northern Tacoma (excluding the Hilltop area), Gig Harbor and Fircrest. I created a majority-minority district in southern Tacoma (SD 29) and didn’t want to split Tacoma into more than 2 SDs, which resulted in this 79% white district. HD 51 is a safe Democratic district including the Tacoma neighborhoods of Northeast Tacoma, New Tacoma, and North End, while HD 52 is a tossup district including Fircrest, Gig Harbor, the unincorporated Artondale area, Fox Island, and Tacoma’s West End neighborhood.

27th SD: Tossup-to-lean Republican district with the larger cities of Bremerton and Port Orchard and rural areas in southern Kitsap and Pierce Counties on the Kitsap Peninsula. This area saw some of the smallest drop-offs in Democratic performance when comparing the results of Obama in 2008 and Murray in 2010, which is likely due to the large military (naval) presence in the Bremerton area and Murray’s work on veterans’ issues. HD 53 is a tossup district centered around Bremerton, while HD 54 is a lean Republican district including Port Orchard. It’s the only district to cross the Pierce-Kitsap line (which resulted in it being somewhat odd-shaped).

28th SD: Lean Democratic suburban Pierce County district between Tacoma and Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM), including the cities of Lakewood and University Place and unincorporated communities in Parkland and Spanaway. Also included a small part of JBLM to have a more compact district, but not necessary. HD 55 is the southern, more diverse (less than 56% white) lean Democratic district including parts of Lakewood, Parkland and Spanaway, while HD 56 is the northern lean Democratic district including all of University Place and part of Lakewood.

29th SD: Safe Democratic majority-minority senate district in southern Tacoma, Fife, and unincorporated communities in Parkland and Midland. Both HD 57 (south) and HD 58 (north) are safe Democratic majority-minority house districts.

30th SD: Likely Democratic King County district that’s principally Federal Way, most of Des Moines, and unincorporated Lakeland communities. It’s worth noting that all of Des Moines can’t be in the same district since both Sen. Eide (LD-30) and Sen. Kaiser (LD-33) live in Des Moines and weren’t up for election in 2012. HD 59 is a lean Democratic, less diverse (57.5% white) district in southern Federal Way and unincorporated Lakeland South, while HD 60 is a likely-to-safe Democratic more diverse (52.4% white) district in northern Federal Way, most of Des Moines, and unincorporated Lakeland North.

31st SD: Likely-to-safe Republican rural/suburban district with in southeastern King County and eastern Pierce Counties and the modestly-sized cities of Buckley, Maple Valley, Black Diamond, Enumclaw, and Snoqualmie. HD 61 is a safe Republican district that crosses the King-Pierce County line, taking in Enumclaw and Buckley plus the unincorporated communities of Prairie Ridge and Lake Morton-Berrydale. HD 62 is a lean Republican King County district that includes Black Diamond, Maple Valley, Snoqualmie and North Bend. A strong Democratic candidate could potentially turn HD 62 into a tossup district.

32nd SD: Safe Democratic southeast Snohomish County encompassing the cities of Edmonds, Lynnwood, and Mountlake Terrace, which often help King County carry the state. HD 63 is a fairly diverse (59% white) safe Democratic district centered around Lynnwood, while HD 64 is a much less diverse (76.5% white) safe Democratic district including Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace, and Woodway.

33rd SD: Safe Democratic King County majority-minority senate district taking in the cities of Burien, SeaTac, Tukwila, and the northern tip of Des Moines. HD 65 is a safe Democratic, much-less diverse (56% white) district including Burien, Normandy Park, the northern tip of Des Moines and the unincorporated White Center community, while HD 66 is a safe Democratic majority-minority house district (36% white) including SeaTac, Tukwila, and unincorporated Riverton-Boulevard Park and Bryn Mawr-Skyway communities.

34th SD: Safe Democratic district including the Seattle neighborhoods of Downtown, West Seattle, Delridge, Georgetown, South Park, and Beacon Hill west of Beacon Ave as well as Vashon Island. HD 67 is a safe Democratic district including West Seattle and Vashon Island, while HD 68 is a safe Democratic majority-minority house district including the Seattle neighborhoods of Downtown, Georgetown, Delridge, South Park, and Beacon Hill west of Beacon Ave.

35th SD: Tossup-to-lean Democratic district containing all of Mason County, western Thurston County, and southeastern Grays Harbor County, including Montesano, Cosmopolis, and Elma. HD 69 is a lean Democratic district crossing the Grays Harbor-Thurston county line, including Tumwater, Montesano, Cosmopolis, and Elma, while HD 70 is a tossup district spanning all of Mason County, as well as a small amount of unincorporated northwestern Thurston County.

36th SD: Safe Democratic Seattle district west of Highway 99 (also known as Aurora Avenue) including the neighborhoods of Ballard, Queen Anne, Interbay, and Magnolia. HD 71 is a safe Democratic district encompassing the neighborhoods of Fremont, Westlake, Queen Anne, Interbay, and Magnolia, while HD 72 is a safe Democratic district that spans the neighborhoods of Ballard, Phinney Ridge, North Beach/Blue Ridge, Crown Hill, and Greewood.

37th SD: Safe Democratic southeast Seattle majority-minority senate district, including the neighborhoods of Rainier Valley, Seward Park, Central Area and Beacon Hill east of Beacon Ave. HD 73 is a very diverse (28% white) safe Democratic majority-minority house district, including the neighborhoods of Rainier Valley, Seward Park, and Beacon Hill east of Beacon Ave, while HD 74 is a safe Democratic district including the neighborhoods of Central Area and Madison Park.

38th SD: Likely-to-safe Democratic Snohomish County district including the cities of Everett and Mukilteo. HD 75 is a likely Democratic district including all of Mukilteo, Everett neighborhoods south of Highway 526, and unincorporated communities of Lake Stickney and Picnic Point-North Lynnwood, while HD 76 is a safe Democratic district nearly exclusively in the city of Everett north of SR 526.

39th SD: Lean Republican multi-county district (taking in areas of King & Snohomish) including the Cascade foothill cities of Monroe, Granite Falls, Carnation, and Duvall. HD 77 is a likely Republican Snohomish County district including Granite Falls, Monroe, and unincorporated communities of Canyon Creek, Three Lakes, and Woods Creek, while HD 78 is a tossup district crossing the King-Snohomish County Line including the cities of Duvall, Carnation, Sultan, and Skykomish and the unincorporated community of Maltby.

40th SD: Lean Democratic district containing all of San Juan County, coastal Skagit County – principally Anacortes, Burlington and Sedro-Woolley – and Whidbey Island in Island County. HD 79 is a likely Democratic district including all of San Juan County and the cities of Anacortes, Burlington, and Sedro-Woolley in Skagit County, while HD 80 is a tossup district though there was a very small drop-offs in Democratic performance when comparing the results of Obama in 2008 and Murray in 2010 (only 2.4%), which is likely due to the large military (naval airfields) presence on Whidbey Island and Murray’s work on veterans’ issues.

41st SD: Tossup affluent exurban district containing Issaquah, Sammamish, and the unincorporated East Renton Highlands. HD 81 is a tossup-to-lean Republican district including the city of Sammamish and unincorporated communities of Union Hill-Novelty Hill and Klahanie, while HD 82 is a tossup-to-lean Democratic centered around the city of Issaquah and unincorporated communities of East Renton Highlands, Fairwood, and Maple Heights-Lake Desire.

42nd SD: Safe Republican rural Whatcom, Skagit, and northern Snohomish County district with the only major cities being Mount Vernon and Lynden. HD 83 is a very safe Republican district centered around Lynden, while HD 84 is a tossup-to-lean Republican district with the moderately-sized city of Mount Vernon and low-population density Cascade foothills areas of Skagit, eastern Whatcom, and northern Snohomish Counties.

43rd SD: Safe Democratic Seattle district centered around the University of Washington, Seattle’s largest employer. HD 85 is a safe Democratic district including the Seattle neighborhoods of Green Lake, Maple Leaf, Windermere, and Laurelhurst, while HD 86 is a safe Democratic district including the Seattle neighborhoods of Wallingford, University District and Capitol Hill.

44th SD: Tossup Snohomish County district that takes in the cities of Lake Stevens, Snohomish, and Mill Creek. HD 87 is a tossup-to-lean Democratic district centered around Mill Creek, while HD 88 is a tossup-to-lean Republican district including the cities of Lake Stevens and Snohomish.

45th SD: Likely Democratic district containing only Kirkland and Redmond. HD 89 is a likely Democratic district entirely within the city of Kirkland, while HD 90 contains all of Redmond, the Kingsgate area of Kirkland, and some of the unincorporated community of Union Hill-Novelty Hill. It is important to note that socially liberal Republicans have done well in affluent Eastside (of Lake Washington) areas, like those included in these districts, but Redmond and Kirkland have been voting far more consistently Democratic since 2006 than they used to.

46th SD: Safe Democratic district including Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, and the Seattle neighborhoods of Wedgewood, Lake City, Northgate, and Broadview. HD 91 is safe Democratic district including the cities of Shoreline and Lake Forest Park and the Seattle neighborhood of Cedar Park, while HD 92 is a safe Democratic Seattle district spanning the neighborhoods of Wedgewood, Broadview, Bitter Lake, Haller Lake, Pinehurst, and Lake City.

47th SD: Tossup-to-lean Republican suburban King-Pierce County district encompassing Auburn, Milton, Sumner, and Bonney Lake. HD 93 is a tossup-to-lean Democratic King County district including all of Algona and the King County portion of Auburn (which is 90% of the city), while HD 94 is a likely Republican King-Pierce district including the cities of Sumner, Edgewood, and Bonney Lake, as well as the Pierce County portion of Auburn and both Milton and Pacific, which have the distinction of also being in multiple counties.

48th SD: Likely Democratic district containing the very affluent community of Mercer Island, the very wealthy city of Medina and the affluent neighborhoods of northern Bellevue. Despite Obama and Murray’s strong performance in this district, socially liberal Republicans have done well here for a long time. HD 95 is a lean Democratic district including the extremely wealthy small suburbs at the eastern end of the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge including Medina, Clyde Hill, Hunts Point, Yarrow Point, as well as Mercer Island and western Bellevue. On the other hand, HD 96 is a likely Democratic district in eastern Bellevue – only 55.6% white.

49th SD: Lean-to-likely Democratic district consisting of western Vancouver (and its unincorporated suburbs, which fall under the jurisdiction of Clark County). HD 97 is a tossup district composed of the unincorporated Vancouver suburbs including Walnut Grove, Felida, and Minnehaha as well as part of the city itself, while HD 98 is a safe Democratic district that’s nearly completely within Vancouver.

My Washington State Senate redistricting plan splits only six cities that didn’t need to be, based on size, with those being: Aberdeen, Bellevue, Coulee Dam, Des Moines, Yakima, and Kennewick (slightly for transportation-connectivity). This is only one more city than Milem’s legislative redistricting plan.

In addition, my plan splits only four counties: Douglas, Grays Harbor, Island, and Skagit, while Milem split only one unnecessary county – Skagit. Milem, though in my opinion, failed to have contiguous, i.e. connected by transportation, legislative district for his district including Island County, since there is no means of transportation between Camano and Whidbey Islands.

To the question as to whether this map, as well as single-member house districts, result in a greater number of districts where minorities have a good chance of being elected, the numbers bear it out. In the Redistricting Commission’s map, with multi-member disticts, there are only 4 majority-minority senate districts, and therefore only 8 house seats in districts that are majority-minority.

There’s one district (two House seats) with a white population between fifty percent and fifty-five percent and two districts (four House seats) with a white population between fifty-five percent and sixty percent.

On the other hand, my Senate plan results in five majority-minority senate districts (a twenty-five percent increase over the Commission’s plan), three Senate districts with a white population between fifty percent and fifty-five percent (a two hundred percent increase) and one Senate district with a white population between fifty-five and sixty percent (a fifty percent decrease).

My House plan results in twelve majority-minority house districts (a fifty percent increase), two House districts with a white population between fifty and fifty-five percent (no change), and seven House districts (a seventy-five percent increase). That’s a significant difference from what we have now.

To summarize: My Senate map would result in fewer divided “communities of interest” (in this case minorities). My single-member House map would give minority Washingtonians a better chance of getting elected to the Legislature.

So there’s my plan for what I consider to be a constitutional alternative to Milem’s plan. If people in Washington state would like single-member House districts, then the time is now to change the law, as it’ll give lawmakers a long time to prepare for possibly being districted-out before the 2021 redistricting process.

If people are concerned about the undue influence that incumbents can have on the Redistricting Commission, as documented by The News Tribune of Tacoma last year, Washington should consider adopting the language that Iowa has, as former Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed discussed, and stipulate that redistricting will be done “without regard to party and incumbency”.