The maps are here, the maps are here!
This afternoon, Washington’s four Redistricting Commissioners released their proposed new boundaries for the state’s forty-nine legislative districts, which each send two representatives and one senator to the statehouse in Olympia.
The proposals are intended to give Washingtonians something to inspect and critique as the Commission moves towards trying to reach a consensus on a final set of maps. The Commission has until November 15th to reach agreement. If it doesn’t, the job of drawing the maps will fall to the State Supreme Court.
The 2021 Commission consists of two Democratic commissioners (April Sims and Brady Walkinshaw) plus two Republican commissioners (Paul Graves and Joe Fain) and a nonvoting chair (Sarah Augustine) as required by the Constitution.
The proposed maps are available for view at a website powered by Citygate GIS, which utilizes Google Maps as its map engine. The links to view are below:
Each commissioner also released a statement describing their rationale.
The preambles of each statement are as follows:
Commissioner Sims’ proposed map reflects a commitment to a values-driven process of rebalancing the 49 legislative districts of Washington. The map is responsive to public input, government-to-government consultations with Tribal Councils, and recognizes the responsibility to create districts that provide fair representation for communities of interest.
Commissioner Graves’ map is faithful to the legal guidelines governing redistricting because it focuses on communities of interest and is not drawn to favor either party or incumbents. Graves’s map increases the overall number of competitive districts—those within 3 percent of 50/50, using an average of the 2020 statewide race results that pitted a Democrat against a Republican — to 11, nearly doubling the current six swing districts.
Commissioner Walkinshaw’s proposed map reflects a values-driven commitment to fair and effective representation in Washington State. The map is centered on the core belief, that is also expressed in the Commission’s statute, that electoral representation is strongest when communities of interest are united. The plan is responsive to public input and government-to-government consultation with Tribal nations over the last several months.
Public education is the paramount duty of Washington State government. To reflect that constitutional directive, Commissioner Fain’s map places existing school district boundaries at the cornerstone of his legislative framework. The proposal protects close to three-quarters of all school districts in Washington from being split between multiple legislative districts to give greater voice to students, educators, and parents in state government. There is no greater community of interest than our public schools.
Adopting the mantra of “competitiveness,”, Graves and Fain have sought to create legislative maps that would give Republicans the best shot possible at recapturing one or more chambers in the statehouse.
Both Republican maps are obvious gerrymanders, says past Northwest Progressive Institute president Robert Cruickshank, who noted that putting Bainbridge Island in a Seattle-based legislative district makes absolutely no sense.
“The Republican commissioners on the Redistricting Commission both attempt to aggressively gerrymander Seattle — they both propose adding Bainbridge Island to Seattle legislative districts. Joe Fain chops the 36th, one of most progressive Washington legislative districts, into three LDs to dilute its power,” he tweeted.
Unlike Vashon Island, which is in King County, Bainbridge Island is in Kitsap County. It has historically not been in the same legislative or congressional districts as Seattle neighborhoods. Speaking of Vashon, it would stay in the 34th District in most of the map proposals, except for Brady Walkinshaw’s, which oddly puts it in the 26th Legislative District, which is a swing Pierce-Kitsap district.
Among the most interesting choices in the Graves map is the creation of a 13th District that stretches from King County all the way through Central Washington into Eastern Washington. It’s quite the district. Take a look:
“We appreciate the hard work of the Redistricting Commissioners to draft the map proposals presented today,” said Washington State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski. “It’s disappointing that the Republican commissioners apparently decided not to follow the direction of the law and the mission of the Redistricting Commission. The [Republican cohort] has drawn effectively non-contiguous maps and have prioritized their own political and electoral objectives above the mission of the Commission as actually defined in the Revised Code of Washington.”
“The job of the Commission is to respect communities of interest, public comment, municipalities and counties, and not the GOP’s political objectives. Maps that don’t follow the statute aren’t pursuing competitiveness, they’re gerrymandering. The GOP commissioners should go back to the drawing board and try producing maps that respect the law.”
The commission shall exercise its powers to provide fair and effective representation and to encourage electoral competition. The commission’s plan shall not be drawn purposely to favor or discriminate against any political party or group.
Graves and Fain argue their maps “encourage electoral competition.” Podlodowski contends that their maps are “drawn purposely to favor” the Republican Party.
Note that both characterizations can be simultaneously true.
These are, as a reminder, not the final maps, so Fain and Graves have some room to gallop in terms of throwing ideas out there just as Sims and Walkinshaw do.
However, in our view, if the final maps look anything like what they’ve proposed, the Commission’s work would be open to a legal challenge.
While there are a number of differences and divergences in the two Democratic maps, one important area where they are in agreement is the state’s northwest corner. Both Democratic maps would bring the San Juans into the 10th Legislative District, creating a super-island district that would also include Fidalgo Island in Skagit County and Whidbey and Camano Islands in Island County.
The 10th is currently a swing district with one Democratic representative, one Republican representative, and one Republican state senator. The district would become much more winnable for Democrats with these changes, giving Democrats a good shot at picking up a state Senate seat there in 2024.
Meanwhile, Bellingham would be divided up between the 40th and 42nd to keep Whatcom County friendly turf for the Democratic Party, and give Democrats an opportunity to pick up the Senate seat currently held by extremist Doug Ericksen.
Next week, the Redistricting Commission is scheduled to release a set of congressional maps to accompany the proposed legislative maps. The Commission will be accepting public testimony on all the maps for the next few weeks.