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How a new congressional district would reshape the Washington map

The new district, the state's tenth, is likely to be centered on Olympia. Such redrawing of the lines would create several more logical districts.

Washington's current nine Congressional districts

Washington's current nine Congressional districts Washington Secretary of State

Washington is likely to get a new congressional district after the 2010 Census. So where would a new Tenth congressional district go?

The only geographically logical place is a district centered on Olympia, now a part of the Third. Adding an district inescapably causes dislocations, but as in this case, offers a chance for improvement in the form of more logically coherent districts.

Population growth in Washington was enough that even with a tenth district, the population per district will rise slightly from 655,000 to 673,000.  Unlike in some earlier decades, eastern Washington has grown as well, so both the Fourth (Republican Doc Hastings) and Fifth (Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers) districts have to contract, the Fifth will probably by losing Okanogan and Adams counties to the Fourth, and the Fourth may well lose Klickitat and 117,000 or so people from Yakima to the Third. Sorry, Yakima County, there is no escape from this dislocation.

In turn, the Third (newly elected Republican Jaime Herrara) has to change a lot, having to shed Lewis, Pacific. Wahkiakum, and Thurston, even probably a tip of Cowlitz. So the Third becomes an east-west Columbia River district, more geographically logical than before.

Such shifts clearly set up Thurston (Olympia) as the core of a district, dispossessed from the Third district.  The new Tenth, with Lewis, Pacific, Wahkiakum, and Thurston counties on its south, would need to add the Olympic peninsula counties of Clallam, Jefferson, Mason, and Grays Harbor, plus 80,000 or so, probably from Pierce County rather than from Kitsap. Such a Tenth makes a really sensible Pacific and far western Washington district of similar history and geography.

In the north the Second district (Democrat Rick Larsen) has to shed much of Snohomish County, retaining only 260,000 or so, increasing the Snohomish County share of the First district (Democrat Jay Inslee) to 450,000.

The above changes are more or less inescapable, simply from the geography of population change.  The disposition of the five metropolitan core districts (1, 6, 7, 8, and 9) is less obvious and subject to greater political mischief.  From a geographic community of interest perspective, the Seventh (Democrat Jim McDermott) needs to change only slightly. The Sixth (Democrat Norm Dicks), having lost the peninsula counties, might logically combine most (or all) of Kitsap and western Pierce, including Tacoma.  This in turn makes possible a somewhat better configuration of the Eighth (Republican Dave Reichert) to include all of eastern King County, perhaps, and Ninth (Democrat Adam Smith) districts.

Dick Morrill is emeritus professor of geography at the University of Washington and an expert in urban demography.


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Nov 12, 2:35 a.m. Inappropriate

Let's hope the new lines are better than the old ones, which include some really strange anomalies, such as the upper Middle Fork Snoqualmie river forming a totally illogical boundary between the 2nd and 8th. A result of that is that the bill currently in Congress to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness is weirdly truncated, addressing only one side of the river.

We can do better. I'd like to see the urban districts made a little less strictly urban by including nearby parts of the Cascades. And why not make the districts more competitive where possible? Why should the 7th stay specifically designed to forever serve Congressman For Life Jim McDermott? Time to mix things up.

Posted Fri, Nov 12, 8:52 a.m. Inappropriate

The 7th district is drawn that way to ensure that no Democrats leak into the 8th district. The 9th, is a center /left district, and depending on where you draw the lines could easily flip to safe Democrat, or safe Republican. The 8th though if it were to pick up more of Eastern King County would become a more safe Republican district.

All I can say is beware the hack who claims that "geographical" boundaries are "logical." Until you see the map of precincts and the demographics of the people in them, then you can tell who's gerrymandering for who.

Fortunately in this state both parties have to agree on the lines. Should be an interesting side show.

GaryP

Posted Fri, Nov 12, 11:40 a.m. Inappropriate

I am not a geographer, but I would feel better about Prof. Morrill's projection if he started from the premise that the new 10th goes in the area of highest growth, which is how I heard it works. Does Thurston County represent the highest growth? One area of very high growth is north Pierce (Puyallup) and south King (Federal Way). If this were true and it included Auburn, home of Dave Reichart, it would create a more rural and conservative district than today's 8th, leaving the rest of the East Side to elect someone who better represents suburban interests.

Posted Fri, Nov 12, 2:49 p.m. Inappropriate

Professor Morrill's ideas are interesting, but the Washington State Redistricting Commission will do whatever it pleases when it convenes in 2011 to redraw the Legislative and Congressional districts. And a body that would give us egregious gerrymanders like the 11th and 37th Legislative Districts is capable of ANYthing.

DTNelson

Posted Fri, Nov 12, 10:06 p.m. Inappropriate

If we get a 10th district, a significant portion of eastern Washington will have to be included in one or more majority western Washington districts. The population of eastern Washington counties is almost exactly equal to 2/9 of the state's population, so with nine districts it's easy to give two to the east side of the state. With 10 districts, however, eastern WA needs more than two districts but less than three. About 140,000 people need to be moved out of the two eastern WA districts. Those would most likely come from moving all of Klickitat and and some of Yakima County into the 3rd, but moving some or all of Kittitas County into the 8th is also a possibility.

Glenn

Posted Fri, Nov 12, 10:29 p.m. Inappropriate

Two Democrats and two Republicans, appointed by the legislative caucus leaders, plus a non-voting chair that the first four select. Better than having the legislature do it themselves, which was the case before 1991. I wonder if the process would be improved if those who identified with neither party were given a voice.

By the way, there's apparently a redistricting board game.
http://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/redistricting/game.aspx
Might be fun to play sometime. The cards and rules are well worth reading.
http://www.sos.wa.gov/_assets/elections/redistricting/gamecards.pdf

Posted Sat, Nov 13, 2:06 p.m. Inappropriate

Please reconsider the part of your proposal that concerns the 4th and 5th Congressional Districts. I am fairly certain that no one would put Chelan County in the 2nd District. So why is Chelan in the 4th Congressional District, set apart by the Stuart Range and Blewitt Pass, which is a bit higher than Stevens Pass. Winters are long and hard in Eastern Washington and that makes all travel more difficult. There is another mountain pass in the 4th District, Satus Pass, barely higher than Snoqualmie Pass and therefore not nearly as formidable as Blewitt Pass. The other dominant feature, the Columbia River, is not so much of a barrier now that it is bridged in so many places.

I believe that it would be better if the 5th District boundary were to begin with Okanogan County, include Chelan County and Douglas County, then extend east to the state border and south to cover all of the greater Spokane area and as much of the present district as needed to meet the criterion population; and, if the 4th District were to begin with Kittitas County and extend through south central and southeast Washington. To promote political justice the 4th District should encompass as much of burgeoning minority groups as is reasonable.

pico

Posted Sat, Nov 13, 8:15 p.m. Inappropriate

Yep, redistricting is political and cultural. It's true that the Democrats would be better off not to concentrate ("waste") so many D voters in the 7th. But a Seattle district is the tradition!

DMorrill

Posted Tue, Nov 16, 8:12 a.m. Inappropriate

From your mouth to the redistricting committee's ears. Being "represented" by Ms. Herrera in the 3rd is embarrassing.

lvngacmmt

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