NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

Washington’s Redistricting Commissioners unveil their proposed congressional maps

Car­tog­ra­phy afi­ciona­dos, rev your engines… it’s map time again!

Last week, Wash­ing­ton’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic and Repub­li­can redis­trict­ing com­mis­sion­ers  made pub­lic a set of four maps that would recon­sti­tute the state’s forty-nine leg­isla­tive dis­tricts as required every ten years. Today, they’ve done the same for the state’s ten con­gres­sion­al dis­tricts, sev­en of which are rep­re­sent­ed by Democ­rats and three of which are rep­re­sent­ed by Republicans.

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:

PDF and shape­file ver­sions are avail­able too.

Each com­mis­sion­er also released a state­ment describ­ing their rationale.

The pre­am­bles of each state­ment are as follows:

Com­mis­sion­er Sims is proud to release a pro­posed map that pri­or­i­tizes her val­ues and her com­mit­ment to the Commission’s require­ment to con­sid­er dis­tricts that are: equal in pop­u­la­tion; pre­serve com­mu­ni­ties of inter­est; reduce divi­sion of coun­ty and munic­i­pal bound­aries; don’t favor or dis­crim­i­nate against a can­di­date or par­ty; encour­age elec­toral com­pe­ti­tion; and are com­pact, con­ve­nient, and contiguous.

This new­ly drawn con­gres­sion­al map [from Com­mis­sion­er Graves] cre­ates two major­i­ty-minor­i­ty con­gres­sion­al dis­tricts, twice the num­ber from a decade ago and the most in state his­to­ry. This map would give a pow­er­ful voice to groups that have in the past been under­rep­re­sent­ed in the halls of Con­gress. It also increas­es com­pe­ti­tion, giv­ing vot­ers more choic­es and encour­ag­ing our mem­bers of Con­gress to lis­ten to all their constituents.

Just as he reduced the num­ber of cities need­less­ly split in his pro­posed leg­isla­tive map, the goal of Com­mis­sion­er Walkinshaw’s pro­posed con­gres­sion­al map is to reduce the num­ber of coun­ty splits and draw more log­i­cal lines that reflect the real­i­ty of com­mu­ni­ties. In much of the state, it is coun­ty gov­ern­ments that main­tain roads, pro­vide impor­tant social and pub­lic health ser­vices, and are respon­si­ble for pub­lic safe­ty and the admin­is­tra­tion of justice.

Com­mis­sion­er Fain’s plan cre­ates com­pact, com­pet­i­tive con­gres­sion­al dis­tricts that fol­low impor­tant geo­graph­i­cal and polit­i­cal bound­aries. This region­al approach keeps most cities, coun­ties, and school dis­tricts togeth­er and more than three-quar­ters of res­i­dents in their exist­ing districts.

Adher­ing to the prece­dent they set with their leg­isla­tive map pro­pos­als, the Repub­li­can com­mis­sion­ers have once again con­coct­ed some pret­ty fan­tas­tic ger­ry­man­ders. Fain’s map packs as many Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers as pos­si­ble into the 2nd, 10th, 1st, 7th, and 9th in order to cre­ate five dis­tricts that Repub­li­cans could con­ceiv­ably win (the 6th, the 8th, the 3rd, the 4th, and the 5th).

The lat­ter three dis­tricts are cur­rent­ly rep­re­sent­ed by Repub­li­cans; the for­mer are rep­re­sent­ed by Demo­c­ra­t­ic incum­bents Derek Kilmer and Kim Schrier.

Graves took a bit of a dif­fer­ent approach to get to a sim­i­lar 5/5 best case sce­nario con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion split for Repub­li­cans, seek­ing to turn the 1st and the 8th into more com­pet­i­tive exurban/rural hybrid dis­tricts while leav­ing the 6th in a more Demo­c­ra­t­ic-friend­ly configuration.

Under Graves’ scheme, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Suzan Del­Bene — who rep­re­sents Red­mond in Con­gress — would reside in the 9th Dis­trict instead of the 1st.

(It’s impor­tant to note that con­gres­sion­al can­di­dates do not need to live in the dis­tricts they rep­re­sent, unlike with leg­isla­tive dis­tricts, but vot­ers, can­di­dates, and polit­i­cal par­ties all gen­er­al­ly pre­fer that rep­re­sen­ta­tives be dis­trict residents.)

The Demo­c­ra­t­ic com­mis­sion­ers, mean­while, have pro­posed maps that would be much more like­ly to keep the state’s cur­rent sev­en to three split intact.

Both April Sims and Brady Walkin­shaw pro­posed shrink­ing the 1st in size while keep­ing it Demo­c­ra­t­ic; its ced­ed ter­ri­to­ry would return to the 2nd.

While remain­ing a cross-Cas­cades dis­trict, the 8th would move west in places, gain­ing impor­tant ter­ri­to­ry in Belle­vue that at first glance would like­ly enable Democ­rats to hold the dis­trict until it is redrawn again in 2031.

Nei­ther the Sims or Walkin­shaw maps moves the 3rd to the north much. Send­ing the 3rd north along I‑5 would cre­ate a dis­trict more like the one Bri­an Baird used to rep­re­sent, enabling Democ­rats to bet­ter com­pete against Jaime Her­rera Beut­ler. (The 3rd is the only dis­trict in the west­ern side of the state — or the entire Pacif­ic North­west for that mat­ter — that is Republican-held).

The Sims and Walkin­shaw maps diverge sig­nif­i­cant­ly with respect to the 4th and the 5th, the two dis­tricts that are present­ly whol­ly locat­ed east of the Cascades.

In Walkin­shaw’s ver­sion, the 4th would be a giant wedge run­ning from Pend Oreille Coun­ty down to the Colum­bia Riv­er Gorge. Spokane would stay in the 5th, which would gain some of the 4th’s south­ern­most territory.

In Sims’ ver­sion, the 5th would have more of a col­umn-like shape, run­ning from the Cana­di­an bor­der to the Ore­gon bor­der along the Ida­ho border.

The Redis­trict­ing Com­mis­sion will be accept­ing pub­lic tes­ti­mo­ny on all of these hypo­thet­i­cal con­gres­sion­al maps plus the pre­vi­ous­ly released leg­isla­tive maps for the next few weeks. Although the final maps are unlike­ly to be based prin­ci­pal­ly on any these con­cepts, they nev­er­the­less sig­nal what com­mis­sion­ers will be pri­or­i­tiz­ing when they begin nego­ti­at­ing with each oth­er. Be sure to sub­mit your com­ments and ques­tions so the com­mis­sion­ers hear from you.

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