Elections

Washington’s Redistricting Commissioners have released their proposed legislative maps

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:

Screen­shot of Paul Graves’ col­or-cod­ed leg­isla­tive dis­trict map. The 13th is the pink-hued mon­stros­i­ty in the middle.)

“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 rel­e­vant RCW cit­ed by the Wash­ing­ton State Democ­rats con­tains this clause, which Graves high­light­ed in a tweet:

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.

Andrew Villeneuve

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