NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

Brady Walkinshaw, April Sims to represent Democrats on 2021 Redistricting Commission

Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­isla­tive lead­ers in Wash­ing­ton State announced today that they’ve cho­sen two high­ly qual­i­fied indi­vid­u­als to rep­re­sent their cau­cus­es on the 2021 Redis­trict­ing Com­mis­sion, the body tasked with attempt­ing to redraw the state’s con­gres­sion­al and leg­isla­tive maps fol­low­ing the decen­ni­al census.

Rep­re­sent­ing the House Democ­rats will be Wash­ing­ton State Labor Coun­cil Sec­re­tary-Trea­sur­er April Sims; rep­re­sent­ing the Sen­ate Democ­rats will be Grist CEO and for­mer State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Brady Walkin­shaw.

In nam­ing Walkin­shaw and Sims to the Com­mis­sion, House Speak­er Lau­rie Jink­ins and Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Andy Bil­lig have ful­filled their respon­si­bil­i­ty under the Con­sti­tu­tion and state law to select two capa­ble indi­vid­u­als to rep­re­sent the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty in this vital­ly impor­tant map­mak­ing exercise.

Brady Walkinshaw and April Sims

Brady Walkin­shaw (left) and April Sims (right) have each been active in Wash­ing­ton State pol­i­tics for years, and are well known and respect­ed with­in Demo­c­ra­t­ic cir­cles (Pho­tos by Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

“Our state’s approach to draw­ing our leg­isla­tive and con­gres­sion­al maps is cru­cial to the fair and rep­re­sen­ta­tive out­comes of our demo­c­ra­t­ic process,” said Walkin­shaw, the first Lati­no Redis­trict­ing Com­mis­sion­er. “I’m hon­ored by the appoint­ment and look for­ward to the work over the com­ing year.”

“I am hon­ored to be the first woman of col­or and Black per­son appoint­ed to serve on Washington’s Redis­trict­ing Com­mis­sion,” said April Sims. “I look for­ward to work­ing with my fel­low Com­mis­sion­ers to devel­op a process that is fair, trans­par­ent, inclu­sive, and in line with the val­ues of our state.”

It’s now the Repub­li­cans’ turn to unveil their picks. The Com­mis­sion will be almost com­plete when House Repub­li­can Leader J.T. Wilcox and Sen­ate Repub­li­can Leader John Braun announce the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of their respec­tive cau­cus­es. They have until Jan­u­ary 15th to name their selections.

Once they do, the four com­mis­sion­ers will have the joint respon­si­bil­i­ty of pick­ing the com­mis­sion’s fifth and final mem­ber, who will serve as the non­vot­ing chair. (The indi­vid­ual cho­sen to chair the Com­mis­sion must not be aligned with a polit­i­cal par­ty.) The com­mis­sion­ers will have until Jan­u­ary 31st to agree on a chair.

After that, the Com­mis­sion will begin its work in earnest.

It is the Con­sti­tu­tion, and specif­i­cal­ly Arti­cle II, Sec­tion 43, that stip­u­lates that the redis­trict­ing process shall be car­ried out by a bipar­ti­san com­mis­sion instead of by the Leg­is­la­ture. The Framers of the Sev­en­ty-Fourth Amend­ment (adopt­ed in 1983, which cre­at­ed the process we have now) rea­soned that an equal­ly divid­ed com­mis­sion would have an incen­tive to bar­gain and compromise.

How­ev­er, rec­og­niz­ing that fail­ure is an option, the Framers wise­ly cre­at­ed a fail­safe mech­a­nism. In the event the com­mis­sion dead­locks and can­not agree on new maps by the dead­line (Novem­ber 15th, 2021), the respon­si­bil­i­ty of draw­ing new bound­aries shall pass to the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court.

The bipar­ti­san com­mis­sion has nev­er failed to pro­duce a new set of maps before. How­ev­er, these are very polar­ized times, and there’s a first time for everything.

Past com­mis­sions have gone down to wire in their efforts to strike a deal.

The 2011 Redis­trict­ing Com­mis­sion con­sist­ed of Demo­c­ra­t­ic rep­re­sen­ta­tives Dean Fos­ter and Tim Ceis, Repub­li­can rep­re­sen­ta­tives Tom Huff and Slade Gor­ton, and non­vot­ing chair Lura Pow­ell. The team of Huff and Gor­ton are acknowl­edged by Demo­c­ra­t­ic and Repub­li­can strate­gists alike as hav­ing secured favor­able maps out of that last round of redis­trict­ing, espe­cial­ly at the leg­isla­tive level.

How­ev­er, with Slade Gor­ton and Tom Huff hav­ing passed away, Repub­li­can leg­isla­tive lead­ers will not be able to rely on them next year, not even as advis­ers to the 2021 com­mis­sion­ers. Repub­li­cans may espe­cial­ly feel the loss of Gor­ton’s leg­endary keen intel­lect and nego­ti­at­ing skills.

Anoth­er prob­lem the Repub­li­cans will have to grap­ple with, aside from not hav­ing Gor­ton and Huf­f’s knowl­edge and exper­tise at their dis­pos­al, is that most of Wash­ing­ton’s recent pop­u­la­tion growth has been in areas where they are polit­i­cal­ly weak, chiefly King Coun­ty, where the Repub­li­can Par­ty is all but dead.

Many of the exist­ing leg­isla­tive dis­tricts span­ning the state’s pop­u­lous core are just too big, and will need to shrink geo­graph­i­cal­ly to allow a new set of dis­tricts of rough­ly equal num­bers of peo­ple to be drawn.

Giv­en recent pop­u­la­tion changes, the Big Three — King, Pierce, and Sno­homish coun­ties — are very like­ly to emerge from this round of redis­trict­ing with more polit­i­cal pow­er in the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture than they have today.

The con­gres­sion­al map con­sists of ten dis­tricts, and Wash­ing­ton is not in line for a new one this year like it was last time, so the changes to that map may not be as sig­nif­i­cant. The best the Repub­li­cans can prob­a­bly hope for is a map that gives them what they already have: two solid­ly red dis­tricts and one that leans red.

The ide­al out­come for Democ­rats is eight con­gres­sion­al dis­tricts that are either safe­ly Demo­c­ra­t­ic or are com­pet­i­tive enough for Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates to win.

If you find redis­trict­ing fas­ci­nat­ing and have always won­dered what it’d be like to try to draw the maps, then give our friend Dave Bradlee’s Redis­trict­ing App a try. It’s extreme­ly well put togeth­er and not dif­fi­cult to learn how to use.

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2 Comments

  1. Please research and write about the impact redis­trict­ing has on tribes in our state. It is very inter­est­ing (and unjust) what has hap­pened to the Yaka­ma nation and the Colville Tribe.

    # by Alaina Capoeman :: December 12th, 2020 at 8:08 AM
    • Thank you for this idea!

      # by Andrew Villeneuve :: December 12th, 2020 at 11:04 AM
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